Author’s note: Are you the parent of a student either currently enrolled in college – or who is planning on attending a cap and gownpostsecondary school next fall? You don’t have to be told that college is expensive and planning is time consuming. This two-part series, designed for parents and employee assistance (and other) professionals who are assisting them in this often-difficult process, can really help!

In part I of this two-part series, I outlined some of the issues that are just the “tip” of the college planning iceberg influencing whether today’s “modern” family will be able to actually afford a 4-yr college. In this post, I will go over more key points.

Most EFC calculators pivot off a handful of data points- our calculator actually pivots off close to 20 significant data points that provide a more accurate picture of what your expected family contribution (EFC) might be. By knowing this number ahead of time,  you can create a more efficient plan for how best to pay for college. While EFC is mostly “income”-driven in nature, our work with families has uncovered additional “peripheral” areas, like assets, that can influence what a family’s “true” EFC looks like. Did you know that assets held in a student’s name can often be assessed as high as 26% in some formulas?

This is because assets that are held in a student’s name typically do not have an asset protection allowance. There is over $150 billion in financial aid available each year if you know how to get it and with the competition for admissions becoming increasingly competitive, students need to know how best to present themselves to their targeted colleges.

If you are like many of the thousands of families who feel they are not receiving the kind of attention from their high schools that is needed during the college application process, take a peek at some of the various web-based tools that we have launched to help simplify this process. (www.smarttracktoolkit.com).

Be sure to monitor deadlines (both admissions and financial aid) for each college you are applying to.  Believe it or not schools often have different deadlines for their admissions applications versus their financial aid applications.  For students applying to state schools, did you know that different states have different deadlines for families to submit their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms? States like Kentucky, Tennessee and Vermont award aid on a first come, first-served basis so it’s critical to have your forms submitted in January (as a general rule of thumb) before most of the available aid disappears by late spring.

If you are a parent of a senior in high school or you have kids who are currently in college and are applying for financial aid, you can get a head start by using our College Funding tool to actually submit all of your financial aid forms on time (including the FAFSA & CSS Profile forms) and be entitled to a professional review with one of our experienced college funding advisors.

Contact me with any questions you might have: jay.robie@smarttracktoolkit.com or 800 863-9440 ext. 277. Good luck!

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