In just a matter of days or hours, Valentine’s Day will be over for another year. Tissue paper from wrapped gifts will litter the bedroom floor, chocolates will have been devoured, and pink and red greeting cards will have been set up in display mode on the kitchen counter.
And then, in the days and weeks after Valentine’s Day—romance will pull on work boots and get back into the trenches.
If you’re married, you probably understand well that though Valentine’s Day is nice, real romance is actually lived out every day, 365 days a year, in the normal course of every day, up-and-down, regular life.
Today, moms and dads, I’m going to talk about that regular old “365-day-a-year-romance” you have with your spouse, and what that has to do with your kid getting financial aid for college.
Here’s the special message I have for you for today, parents: Your marriage matters when it comes to your kid eventually getting financial aid for college.
“Seriously? How does my marriage affect how much money my kid gets in financial aid for college?”
Because of idiosyncrasies with the CSS/Profile financial aid form, if you at some point decide to divorce your child’s other parent and marry someone else, your child will be disadvantaged in the financial aid process at the most competitive colleges in the country.
“Disadvantaged! How so?”
Your child will be disadvantaged because the CSS/Profile financial aid calculations consider the income of stepparents, as well as parents, when calculating how much a family can “probably afford to pay for college.”
(This is true whether or not the stepparents involved are willing to help pay for college.)
When the income of three or four adults is figured into the calculations that determine your child’s financial need, your family may end up looking wealthier and less in need of financial aid than it really is.
(If you’re curious, you can see a list of the 250+ colleges and universities that look at the CSS/Profile financial aid form here.)
“We’re already divorced and remarried. What strategy should we consider?”
If divorce and remarriage are already a part of your family story, you might consider having your child apply mainly to colleges that look only at the FAFSA financial aid form. (Thousands of excellent quality public and private colleges and universities fall into this category.)
The FAFSA financial aid form is a good one in this case because it asks only about the income of the divorced parent that the child lived with the most during the previous year. The divorced parent and new spouse that the child doesn’t live with aren’t considered at all.
The stepparent living in the same house as the child, though? That stepparent’s income will be counted, no matter which financial aid form you fill out.
Here’s the big takeaway.
Where possible, parents, pull on work boots and do the hard work of romance 365 days a year. Make keeping the spark of romance alive in your marriage a daily priority. It will make a difference in your kids’ lives in more ways than one.
If your marriage is slowly losing its spark, consider reading this fascinating New York Times article entitled “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.” It’s based on the work of psychologist Arthur Aron, who succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory by having them answer 36 increasingly personal questions.
If it worked in Dr. Aron’s lab, it just might work at your house.
Additional articles by Jeannie Burlowski on the subject of paying for college after divorce:
For more, deeper help getting kids through college debt-free after divorce, see chapters 4, 16, and 26 of my book:
Get 10-minute, fast-paced video instruction on how to use this book most efficiently at bit.ly/
You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCH, here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
This article was originally published on this blog on February 15th, 2016. It was updated on January 21st, 2021.