Plan For College

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crunch Time for High School Seniors

Now that we're approaching the middle of February, it's crunch time for seniors in high school to fill out the FAFSA, and see if they qualify for need based or merit based financial aid. For this blog post, I interviewed Stan Ezekiel, president and founder of The College Planning Group to get his take on what high school seniors should be doing to maximize financial aid. Here are Stan's answers to six important questions seniors should be considering.

1. Is it too late to fill out the FAFSA? Is there a FAFSA deadline?

    No. There's no official FAFSA deadline. Federal aid and merit-based aid are still being awarded. The worst thing to do is to nothing. Filling out the FAFSA before the end of February will help you qualify for thousands of dollars of assistance from the state you reside in and the college of your choice. 

2. How much aid can I get?

     This depends on many factors. There's no way of telling exactly how much financial aid you will receive before filling out the FAFSA. However, if you don't fill out the FAFSA, there's a great chance you will miss out on financial aid. Every day, there are families earning six figure income that receive thousands of dollars of assistance.

3. What is my estimated family contribution, or EFC?

     The estimated family contribution is what a family is expected to pay based on the information submitted in the FAFSA. It will be the same at every college and university you are considering.

     At the College Planning Group, we've developed strategies to lower a family's estimated contribution, which helps them receive more financial aid. There are many factors that go in to determining a family's EFC, so we're not going to recommend cookie cutter strategies that may not apply to your family's situation. However, if you contact us, we can help you and your determine the best strategies to lower your EFC and family maximize financial aid.

4. How can I find great scholarships?

    The best place to start is on the websites of the colleges to which you've been accepted or will be accepted. You can also find many great scholarships on FAST WEB and FIN AID.

5. Should I consider loans?

     Yes. Loans are also part of the financial aid process. Although loans have to be paid back, most are low interest. Some of the families we work with receive loans with interest rates around 6%, and those families typically earn a 12% return in stocks and bonds. Loans also help families defer payment, usually until 6 or 9 months after their student graduates from college.

6. Should I apply for financial aid if I'm planning on attending a state school?

     Yes. The same rules apply. Filling out the FAFSA will enable you to qualify for need based and merit based financial aid, even if you're not attending a private college or university.

Hopefully these answer some of the questions you may be having about financial aid. If you're a senior in high school, it's crunch time for filing out the FAFSA to see if you qualify for need based or merit based financial aid. Don't miss out on the opportunity to get help paying for college. There is still assistance available.

If anyone has additional questions about the FAFSA or financial aid, feel free to comment below or contact Stan directly.

- Charlie Scala


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