Peter B. Rockholz, M.S.S.W., College Financial Aid Advisor – September 4, 2014

The quick answer begins with a simple question back to you:  do you complete your own Federal and State income tax returns? Not likely!  Even though the U.S. Department of Education, the College Board, and the IRS provide ‘easy-to-use’ online forms, none of them are actually very easy to figure out. In fact, completing the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE applications can be quite tricky and frustrating — if not downright daunting — for even the most ‘numbers-savvy’ of parents.

The form instructions alone are also somewhat challenging to understand, and should you decide to complete the forms yourself, there are plenty of pitfalls that can cause additional work. Above all, you want to avoid the potential loss of financial aid available for the student. For example, reporting certain assets that are not requested can actually increase the amount a family will be required to contribute to their student’s education. Also, not knowing exactly which family expenses to report could have similar results. This is often the reason why college financial aid advisors receive so many frantic, last minute calls for advice!

A more complete answer to why you should consider working with a college financial aid advisor is that you will learn exactly what critical financial information is required to receive optimal financial aid benefits, and you will be prepared to submit the forms well in advance of critical deadlines. The advisor can suggest very significant and relatively simple adjustments, such as where to “bank” your student’s college savings.  While it’s always a good idea to begin saving well in advance, parents often follow flawed advice. We repeatedly hear, “we were told to put it in our son’s name!” Not good!! Parents often believe they are the “applicant”, when it’s actually the student who is the primary applicant. With the help of a college financial aid advisor, you will learn specific strategies to manage savings that can significantly increase the student’s chances of being awarded financial aid.

Finally, there are a number of helpful suggestions for early financial preparation to maximize the likelihood of greater college financial aid awards.  Our best advice: start the process as early as possible and seek the help of a certified, experienced college financial aid advisor. This service is not expensive and can provide your student with optimal, life-enhancing financial aid possibilities.