How to Find Financial Aid
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
November 20, 2018
Paying for College: How does your high school help?
Does your high school have a financial aid night? A financial aid meeting can look very different from school to school, but often the primary message is for the parents of juniors or seniors who are nearing the end of their college search. The details shared are for those very close to submitting their own scholarship and financial aid applications. The information is often of a more technical nature–how to get your filing done rather than how to plan ahead. Some schools will host a college financial aid night themselves for their families each year. Some will bring in outside financial planners or college administrators to present the information. Finally, some schools today have done away with this program all together.
It is well intentioned, but the timing (and perhaps the focus) is off the mark. Many of the families we serve are not need based financial aid candidates. We created our Smart Money Moves for the College-Bound™ webinar as a tool to support families with needed information so that they can make plans earlier. We want families to hear the message about being a well informed consumer of a college education early in the college search process. It makes planning and making choices so much easier. Think of it as “how to pay for college night” instead of a financial aid night.
What is Smart Money Moves?
Smart Money Moves for the College-Bound™ grew out of an earlier program created in 2014 with Beth Probst of At The Core called Tips for the College-Bound™. “Tips” scratches the surface about paying for college and touches on some important points; however, we quickly discovered the entire message couldn’t fit within the Tips program on its own. The topics in Tips included all aspects of high school, college, and career planning. The financial piece was too big to squeeze inside it.
So, Smart Money Moves was born. Over time it has evolved into a live, interactive webinar where families can sit down, listen to Joe, and ask their questions. Later, they receive a recording of the webinar to view again (or for the first time).
In this valuable free webinar, Joe talks about:
- How college financial aid works – the ins and outs – the terminology you need to know
- Determining if you qualify for need-based or merit-based aid
- What to do if your family earns too much for financial aid
- Where to find scholarships
- How to find a college that fits your family both socially, academically, and financially
- What strategies to use as a family to put you in the best position to have the best outcomes
- Smart tax and resource planning
- Lending strategies as well – there is a right and a wrong way to use loans!
We recommend families watch this webinar as early as the sixth grade. Those watching with seniors are probably pretty far along in the process, but the webinar may still tie up some loose ends and questions.
Often our families are those that earn too much to qualify for need-based financial aid but don’t have enough saved to write a check for the entire four years of college costs. We provide this information for free because there are a lot of do-it-yourselfers out there who just need a strong basis to get them started.
We host these webinars several times a year. You can always visit our Events page to find one coming up.
Back to the high school…
High schools do what they can with the resources available to them. They are asked to perform many more tasks than they were when we were in school, and they can become overwhelmed. Guidance counselors are still an excellent resource for directing students to local scholarships and providing personal assistance with questions.
Go to your high school’s financial aid night, and absorb what they have to share. But we’d recommend you listen to our webinar, too. Some of this stuff can be kind of dense and multiple hearings is always a good idea anyway. Plus, we hope you get the chance to get an early start with our webinar so that the financial aid night simply builds on what you already know.
Becoming an educated consumer of a college education gives you the knowledge to figure out how much you can afford and how to find the colleges that fit your needs.