Back to School 2017

Financial Imperatives for College-Bound HS Families

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(StatePoint) – One challenge looms large for many American families as students approach high school graduation: how to pay for college.

Financial planning should ideally begin several years before college applications are even due. But no matter what financial preparation families have already done, everyone planning to attend college should take these concrete measures during senior year of high school.

• Seek Federal Aid

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. The FAFSA is the first step to securing financial aid for college, including federal student loans, and most state and institutional aid.

Unfortunately, many students don’t realize they are eligible for such aid, leaving tons of money – and potential educational opportunities – on the table. Complete the FAFSA online by visiting fafsa.ed.gov.

• Search for Scholarships

Because scholarship money typically does not have to be repaid, it’s important to secure as much of it as possible. Begin by searching online scholarship databases, like TuitionFundingSources.com, and meet with a school counselor to discuss other available scholarship opportunities. Micro-scholarships are another option. Check out sites like raise.me to learn more about how to earn scholarship money for high school achievements.

• Understand Family Finances

Now is the time to have some important family discussions. Parents should set expectations about money with their students, letting them know what, if any, portion of college expenses they plan to pay.

Students should find out if any funds have been set aside for their education, as well as what their personal responsibilities will entail, whether that involves holding down a part-time job or maintaining a particular grade-point average.

• Consider Private Loans

After exhausting grants, scholarships and other aid options that don’t require paying interest, private loans may be worth some consideration and can, in some cases expand your educational opportunities as a college-bound student.

“It’s important to keep in mind that there are often many unanticipated expenses associated with the college years – from taking an extra course to paying for materials and technology to spending a term studying abroad,” says John Rasmussen, head of Wells Fargo’s private student lending business, who cautions against a cavalier attitude where loans are concerned.

“Whether you take out a private student loan or leverage other financial products to pay for miscellaneous expenses, it’s important to understand the terms of repayment.”

Find more tips and free resources at blogs.wf.com/collegeplanning.

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