Smart Financial Decisions and Strategies for College

Working as a college adviser, I know one of students’ and families’ biggest fears and sources of questions is financial aid. How will I get enough money? What tips do you have? Why is there so much paperwork? I joined Gooroo to answer these questions, walk through financial aid applications and provide tips to accessing money for college. If you’re still applying to college or preparing for it, here are some helpful tips, terms, and strategies to making smart financial decisions for college.

Making smart financial decisions will help you prepare for college
Making smart financial decisions will help you prepare for college

Understanding Cost and Financial Aid 

Many are aware of how expensive college can be. That being said, fewer are able to fully understand price tags versus net cost and direct costs versus indirect costs. I made videos on these topics so you can distinguish college costs and make smart financial decisions to cover them. I also made videos on understanding basic financial aid terms like grants versus scholarships, financial independence versus dependence, loans, work-study, and more. Having this background will help you stay prepared financially for college.

Smart Financial Saving for College

Savings like 529 plans and personal bank accounts can help grow your finances

Saving money for college is difficult, especially if you’re close to applying. However, I tell students in high school if they can get a job and put a portion of that check into a savings account, they can have some spending money for personal expenses like textbooks, transportation and fun. If you’re a parent reading this, check out a 529 plan to see if you’re able to contribute into a tax-deferred savings account only used for education expenses. Sometimes employers, community organizations and states can match your contribution, which is an easy way to multiply your savings for your child’s education. Having money in the bank, even just a little, can help make a difference when you step foot on campus.

Financial Aid Applications

When it’s finally time to apply to colleges, it’s also time to access the money you deserve to get there. Depending on the colleges you apply to and what state you live in, you might have a few applications to fill out. No matter where you live and what college you’re applying to in the U.S., you’ll want to apply for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application provides access to federal government grants like the Pell Grant as well as federal loans and work study assistance. FAFSA is a must! Next, your state might have their own financial aid application to access state grants and scholarships. New York has the TAP application, Florida has the FFAA, and many other states have their own equivalent.

FAFSA and other financial aid applications allow access to funds to cover your college costs

Additionally, a select number of of colleges (mostly private colleges) will require the CSS Profile through College Board. This additional financial aid application dives deeper into your and your family’s finances. But don’t worry, I made a video for the profile and specific scenarios students might encounter. After your financial aid has been submitted, check to see if it’s been verified or if your financial aid office needs additional paperwork.

How Much Do I Pay?

When you finally get your financial aid awards, they can be really challenging to understand and compare. If loans are in the picture, how will repayment work? I made a series of videos to help you and your family break down the net cost of college (what’s the cost after financial aid) and how to compare different net costs. Sometimes the most expensive college gives the best financial aid award and has a lower net cost. Keep your options open, review all financial awards, and talk to financial aid counselors or school professionals for more assistance. 

Regardless of where you want to go, making smart financial decisions is key to accessing higher education. While I know this process isn’t easy, hopefully our Gooroo Courses and resources we provide can guide you to success.

About the Author

Sam Kahn

Sam Kahn

Sam is a content creator and SEO specialist at Gooroo, a tutoring membership and online learning platform that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.