HOUSTON – Graduating seniors and their loved ones have been busy looking at colleges. In the weeks ahead, many will decide on where they want to attend school.
Applications for most colleges are due at the beginning of the year.
Part of the decision-making process is to consider how much college will cost.
Have you started planning financially? When should you start?
Brannon Lloyd is the CEO and founder of Lloyd Financial Group.
“A lot of times when we are talking to parents, ‘Well how are you going to pay for college?’ They’re like, ‘I hope we get a scholarship.’ Well, hope is not a plan. You have to have a strategy moving forward, to get scholarships.”
Lloyd recommends students and parents should not spend a lot of time researching private scholarships for small amounts of money. A tool he recommends parents and student use to find a college and career that fits what they want to do is https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/?excmpid=vt-00061. Lloyd says it’s a one-stop-shop for people ready to plan for life after school.
“We recommend spending time researching colleges that are generous, what are the colleges looking for in a student. And then tailoring that application, that essay to that particular end of getting free money from the school,” explained Lloyd. “I’d say they need to start planning sophomore year absolutely, and then it gets hot and heavy in the junior year, but there are a lot of scholarships that can take several months through the application process, and if you start with a senior, you are going to miss the boat.”
Lloyd said the easiest way to apply for multiple big-money scholarships is on an app called Scholly.
Other scholarships to apply for are specific allotments through work and other organizations you are affiliated with.
“Yes, so if your employer offers a scholarship, the pool just got much narrower. If your church or place of worship offers a scholarship, the pool just got much narrower,” explained Lloyd.
What happens if you do not receive enough money from the college of your choice? Lloyd recommends beginning writing.
“You can certainly write them a letter saying, ‘Hey, we want to come here, but we have a better scholarship somewhere else and we would really like to know there might be a way, do you guys take that into consideration?’” explained Lloyd. “You need to let them know right up front, ‘Look, you’re our first choice, we can’t afford you, the aid package we received is not going to be adequate. Is there anything we can do? Are there any scholarships we might have missed? Does the fact I work in this industry…’ those types of things might help. ‘Our child is declaring business. Does the business school have any additional scholarship money available?’”
How much money do students need before heading off to college?
“That’s kind of a double-edged sword. Keep in mind, that any asset the parent has is counting against them. So, if you show up at a college financial aid office, and you have let’s say $100K saved for college in a 529 Plan, in the formulas, that is only going to count against you for about 5%. In the real world, the college is going to say we know you have $100K and you can’t do anything else with it. Slide that across the table and then we will see what we can do to help you. It is not fair, but it is the way it works,” explained Lloyd.
Most of the free money you are going to get will come from the college itself, according to Lloyd.
Right now, college continues to exceed inflation, believe it or not. Lloyd said the average college expenses increase 8 to 10% each year, so the price you’re looking at now for your freshman is not going to be the price you end up paying when your student graduates.
For those looking at student loan forgiveness should visit the government’s website: https://studentaid.gov/.