College Financing: Should Kids Just Do It Themselves?

Some parents try to save a little time, energy, and money by putting their kids in charge of planning their own college financing. 

“She’s nearly an adult—let her figure it out herself and live with the consequences,” some parents think.

But—is it actually a good idea to put kids in charge of college financing?

The purpose is to make parents consider whether it's a good idea for kids to handle their own college financing.

The answer? An emphatic no.

Parents, pleasedon’t put kids in charge of college financing.

No matter how busy you are, and no matter how bright and capable your son or daughter seems to be—please take charge of the college financing task yourself.

Figuring out college financing is too complex a task for kids.

Parents, though—you can do it!

Especially with the clear, step-by-step help I provide below.

Your teen’s brain is not yet ready for the task of college financing.

Studies show that before the age of 24, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain is not developed sufficiently to be able to succeed at large-scale tasks requiring high-level evaluation of risk and preparation for the future. 

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How Filling Out the FAFSA Protects Your Kid

Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) sounds like the best deal in the world. 

Honestly.

You as a parent spend just a little bit of time entering information into a clear, safe online form, and a kid you love magically gets put in line for free money to help pay for college.

Magically—in just minutes—your kid’s in line for nine separate federal student aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States.

So why do some parents balk at filling out the FAFSA?

The biggest reason I hear from parents who aren’t filling out the FAFSA is, “We’re not gonna get anything anyway…”

Really?

Are you 100% sure about that?

Quick, read this article I’ve written on 7 Reasons to Fill Out the FAFSA Even If You’re Rich.

After you do, consider this very important reason that even the wealthiest families should be filling out the FAFSA:

Filling out the FAFSA protects your kid in the event of unforeseen family setbacks.

filling out the FAFSA

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5 Ways Teens Can Save Earnings—Without Damaging Financial Aid (AUDIO)

Your daughter’s 15 or older, and she’s earning and saving her own money. Whooo hoo! But wait—just a minute. Could the money she’s saving in her own name end up sabotaging future college financial aid awards?

Learn the sobering answer here—along with 5 safe, legal ways your kids can keep their own money under their own control during the college years.

debt-free college podcastJoin me, Jeannie Burlowski, for episode 5 of the Launch Your Teens podcast, and you’ll learn:

1. Why it’s important to think carefully about student earnings after December 31st of the 10th grade year

2. Why January 1st of the sophomore year of college is liberation day, the day no parent or student financial decisions can hurt undergraduate financial aid ever again

3. Why putting the cash your family hopes to save for college into a grandparent-owned 529 college savings plan can be a brilliant idea

4. Which kinds of student income will never hurt college financial aid awards

(14 min.)

You’d rather read than listen? OK you can do that here!

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Should You Fill Out the FAFSA on Your Phone?

Should you fill out the FAFSA on your phone?

On October 17th, 2018, I was invited to guest post on the blog of Certified Financial Planner™ Mike Branch of Focus Financial in Minneapolis. Mike has been an extraordinary mentor to me as I’ve plumbed the depths on how to get kids through college debt-free. You can find Mike at Focus Financial in Minneapolis, on the Approved Consultants tab on this website, or at one of the many FAFSA info sessions he presents in high school auditoriums each year. 

The guest post I wrote for Mike is below.

Are you parenting a student of any age who’ll be in college next fall? If so, one of your most important tasks this year will be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after October 1st as possible. This applies to every student and every parent—no exceptions.

Are you convinced that for you, filling out the FAFSA will be a waste of time—because you make far too much money to qualify for any college aid? Check out this article on 7 Reasons to Fill Out FAFSA Even if You’re Rich.

And then get out your smartphone.

As of October 1st, 2018, you can fill out the FAFSA on your phone.

For years, students and parents filling out the FAFSA were required to complete the form using desktop computers. In 2018, though, a new, mobile-friendly version of FAFSA was released.

Here, 8 things you’ll need to know before you fill out the FAFSA on your phone.

1. It’s a little easier to avoid overwhelm when you fill out the FAFSA on your phone, because you see only one question per screen.

2. Families can start filling out the form on one device, and finish it on another.

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Manage All Your Kids’ College Planning—Mostly By Yourself

If you’re concerned that you’re currently LATE to college planning, read this article now.

college planning

College planning can feel like being lost in a jungle. And sadly, your kid’s high school guidance counselor (nowadays more properly called a “school counselor,”) can’t help much with hacking through the underbrush. Oh, he or she would love to, but budget cuts have slashed the amount of time counselors get to spend with college bound students, in some cases down to just eight minutes per year.

And your child, smart as he is, isn’t in any position to handle the complexity of college planning either. The stakes are high, both financially and career wise, and his brain won’t be fully developed until age 24.

And the internet? You sure don’t want to depend on the internet for college planning advice.

Don’t rely on the internet for college planning advice.

It’ll take you years to sift through everything the internet has to say about college planning. The bits and pieces of info and conflicting messages you hear from online resources will drive you insane. Plus, a huge percentage of what’s currently on the internet regarding college planning is sorely out of date, since President Barack Obama drastically changed US college financing on September 13th, 2015, and most of the world has not yet caught up.

You need a resource that will give you fast, accurate, specific instructions that the internet can’t provide. (I’ll provide a resource for you, below.)

7 things to do when you feel lost in the jungle of college planning

1. Don’t put off college planning because you feel overwhelmed.

I understand that you feel overwhelmed by the college planning process. Every parent does. But if you wait until your kid’s sophomore or junior year of high school to get started on college planning, 75% of the strategies you could have used to get your kid through college debt-free will be gone. Starting early is the best strategy, even if you can’t save a penny.

(If you’re worried that you’re currently late to college planning, read this article now.)

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That Local State University May NOT Be Your Bargain Option

Many parents have only one strategy for lowering college costs. Send the kid to the local state university.

But is your local state university actually your bargain option — considering all the factors involved?

state university

The hidden costs of state university nobody talks about

At many state universities, it can take even the most diligent students six years to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Why? Because classes are full, so students struggle to get into the classes they need to graduate.

A state university education can be like buying a plane ticket, walking down to the gate, and then not being allowed to board — over and over and over again — because the plane is overbooked and every seat is taken.

Two extra years in state university can end up costing your kid a staggering amount.

Read the article I wrote here on how two extra years in college can end up costing students $300,000 in extra tuition, interest, lost full-time income, and stunted retirement savings. Plus, of course, a huge number of students get discouraged before the six years are up, and drop out — leaving college with a boatload of student loan debt and no college degree.

Yikes.

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Can Parents Call the College Financial Aid Office?

If you’re parenting a teen, there’s a good chance that sometime during the winter of your child’s senior year of high school, you’re going to be flipping through documents called “financial aid award letters.”

You’ll have a “financial aid award letter” from every college that’s accepted your child—as long as you’ve filled out the FAFSA financial aid form (which you should absolutely do, even if you’re rich).

When you’re sifting through three or four financial aid award letters, how do you compare them?

financial aid

This article is going to help you with that important task. As a starting point, let’s look very briefly at what financial aid award letters are, and what the problem tends to be with them.

Financial aid award letters tell you how much money you’ll be expected to pay for the education at each college. 

Sounds great, right? This is the point where you get to know the actual price tag for each school. This is where you find out which college is offering your daughter the best deal.

The problem is that financial aid award letters are notoriously difficult to interpret and compare. 

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Genius Strategy for Giving $20 in COLLEGE SAVINGS As Holiday Gifts

I post this important article every December. This year, it contains a brand new resource! A free downloadable bonus article with super helpful information for grandparents. To get straight to the free downloadable article, click here:

How to Give College Savings As Gifts and Get Happy Hugs in Response

Most grandparents love to dote on their beloved grandchildren, but let’s face it. Older kids and teens are notoriously hard to shop for.

How can grandparents give a relatively inexpensive holiday gift that will be remembered with tears and great appreciation for years down the line?

No matter your income level or budget, Grandma and Grandpa, here’s an ingenious idea for deeply impacting the kids you love this holiday season.

grandma

This idea will help you to take the $20 you were planning to spend on a holiday gift, easily put that money into the best possible kind of college savings account, and still have something meaningful and beautiful for the child or teen to unwrap at your family’s holiday gathering.

All without nicking your own finances or damaging the teen’s future financial aid eligibility in any way.

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One Call Can Increase Admissions Chances 40%

Weeks or months after your daughter has finished up all her college applications, you may find yourself wondering, “Is there anything else she can do to increase admissions chances — well after her applications have been submitted?”

Yes there is.

Research shows that one phone call can increase admissions chances 40% at many colleges.

increase admissions chances

How can a phone call increase admissions chances?

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7 Reasons to Fill Out FAFSA — Even If You’re Rich

FAFSA Is Live as of October 1st

This article was originally posted here on October 2nd, 2017. It was updated and re-posted here on September 12th, 2019.

You’d love for your son to get loads of free money financial aid to help him pay for college, but you’re pretty sure he won’t qualify for much. Your family lives comfortably, after all. You aren’t poor.

You wonder if filling out financial aid forms is even worth your time.

Seven Reasons Filling Out the FAFSA Is Well Worth Your Time.

1. You can have a high income and still qualify for help.

You make over $200,000 per year and have significant assets? Your kid can still get free “gift aid” money to help pay for college. I’m talking about free money that need never be paid back.

Because this is true, plan to fill out the FAFSA form every October 1st that you’ll have a kid in college the following fall. Put this October date on your calendar now, so you can put your kid(s) first in line for all the financial aid money they have coming.

FAFSA

2. The FAFSA isn’t just about getting PELL grants. 

Filling out the FAFSA puts your child in line for nine separate federal student aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States.

Every year, people who were sure they were too well-off to qualify for any kind of aid are stunned to see what kind of generous help they actually qualify for at some colleges.

3. The FAFSA considers many more factors than just your income.

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