Weekend: Paying for college is possible with some preparation

By CASSIE TURNER
Several of my friend’s children have been celebrating acceptance letters from a variety of colleges lately on social media. This is an important time of year for current high school seniors looking at different post-secondary options for after graduation.
The excitement of being accepted into a college program is often quickly followed with trepidation of how to pay for it. According to the U.S. Department of Education, tuition, room and board for a four year program ranged between $15,605 to $31,975 per year depending on public or private college tutition.
Thinking about it early and planning for it is one way to relieve the issue.
As a parent, being proactive with college savings for the child from the time he or she is young is a tool. For Ohio students, www.collegeadvantage.com is a website to check out information about a 529 saving plan that has some tax benefits.
Encouraging youth to become a good saver for college is another positive life lesson. In our area, organizations like Hancock Saves www.hancocksaves.org can be a great resource to help youth become “savers.”
For a student, planning ahead could be taking advantage of college courses that count towards high school and college credits. The school usually pays for the tuition and in some cases students graduate high school with enough credits to be a sophomore in college.
This is the time of year that college scholarships start becoming available. Preparing in advance for this process can easily put a student ahead of the competition.
When the student is a freshman or sophomore, start to check out what scholarships are available in the area. Check out different service groups, fraternal orders, townships, youth organizations, community foundations, etc. to find possible scholarships your youth may qualify for.
Reviewing the application a couple of years before it is due allows the youth to participate in activities that not only help with their development, but also strengthens an application. It also helps the student think about how they want to present their information.
Scholarships are usually pretty competitive. Being a well-rounded, prepared candidate is a step up in the application process. Another thing to keep in mind is if a student does not apply, he or she will definitely not get the award.
Completing the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is another piece that is a good idea to prepare for. Please note the free part of the FASFA. If you go to a FASFA site and it has a fee please redirect to fafsa.ed.gov.
Preparing for FASFA also means having your tax return complete for the past year. This includes parents and youth, even if a parent is not helping pay for college. Many schools have early time lines when the FASFA is due to them to be considered for the maximum amount of student aid.
College loans are another way to help pay for school; with any loan look for the best fit and rates. Federal School Loans usually have the best rates and repayment plans post-graduation. Loans through other entities many times will have higher interest rates.
Making the student responsible to help pay for post-secondary education engages a youth in the process. This could be obtaining a work-study job, working on residence life, or any number of ways.
If a student knows that every time he or she misses a class it is like setting $20 or more on fire, they tend to be better students.
Turner is an extension educator, 4-H Youth development, for Ohio State University Extension Service. She can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at turner.280@ous.edu.

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