It is a fact of life that most parents are not able to help their children pay for school as much as they would like. Whether there are just no extra funds available or you feel that it is important for your children to navigate this process on their own, everyone has a different story about how college is paid for. There is nothing that requires a parent to pay for their child’s education, but many parents want to help more than they are able. There are different things you can do to help your child navigate a process that can be confusing.
Encourage Them to Fill Out Their FAFSA Early
Assuming your child is a dependent, and most college students who are just graduating from high school will qualify, they will need you to have your tax forms completed before they complete their FAFSA. They can use information from the previous year, but it may need to be amended later. You can help your child out by completing your taxes early and encouraging them to dive into the FAFSA form as soon as it is available in the spring. No federal loans or grants, as well as many scholarships and school-based aid, can be awarded unless this form is completed. Filling it out allows you to see how much aid your child will qualify for, and allows you to begin the process of filling in any gaps in the budget (Six Dollar Family).
Offer to Cosign for Private Student Loans
There is a limit on how much students can borrow from the federal government each year. The limit is divided into subsidized and unsubsidized borrowing. The amount that is left after these federal loans are used is the responsibility of the student. This does not mean that you as a parent will need to come up with the funds, or that your child will need to pay out of pocket. Private student loans bridge this gap, and can also be used to pay for living expenses during school Private student loans do require your child to apply, just like any other loan. If they have not yet built up sufficient credit to qualify on their own, you can act as a cosigner, allowing them to qualify at a better interest rate and for a higher amount than they may qualify for on their own.
Help Them Make Smart Choices
Your child needs to make their own choices when it comes to selecting a school, but you can offer advice. If they are unsure of their major or have experience struggling with classes, they may benefit from attending a local community college for a year or so to earn their general education credit. These will typically transfer nearly anywhere, and it allows them to have some success, and build some maturity, before heading away to college. The flip side of the coin is encouraging your child to go away to school if it is something they would benefit from. If they are interested in a major that isn’t offered close by, but all of their peers are planning to attend the closer state school, they may benefit from some encouragement to at least visit other schools before settling for what everyone else is doing.