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9 TRAPS to Avoid When Hiring a College Planner

by Lawrene Bottorf

Most high schools are not equipped with the personnel to do this, and most parents have no idea where to start, or if their child will be successful at a certain college, or at all in academic higher ed.  But just as every child is different…the counselor who helped your neighbor may not be right …

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How to Evaluate Your Student Financial Aid Options

Can You Minimize Your Family Contribution?

by Tom Bottorf

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a financial aid form put out by the Office of the U.S. Department of Education for you to use when you need to apply for federal loans, grants, or work-study funds. You might be in need of federal financial aid for college, career school, technical school, …

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Federal Student Aid and Understanding The FAFSA

Financial Aid Award Letters: Be Careful!

by Tom Bottorf

This is the time of year when college Financial Aid award letters are received by students. These are often provided via student portals (with a login required), although many are emailed, and some are still sent “snail mail”. You would think that an award letter would be easy to understand, right? WRONG! We witness mass …

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Who Should and Should Not Submit a FAFSA Form?

Who Should… and Should NOT… Submit The FAFSA Form?

by Tom Bottorf

Most families should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.  This should be done initially in January of the student’s senior year of high school. Regardless of family income and assets, there is one federal entitlement program for every student, the Stafford loan.  The amount available to all freshman is $5500.  The …

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Heartbreak of Achievement

by Tom Bottorf

The March/April timeframe is always bittersweet for us as professional college planners. It’s during this season that we receive distress calls from families that are heartbroken rather than excited about their child getting into their dream school. The students have done everything they were told to do. They took all the right courses, they earned …

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Should You Wait Until Your Senior Year To Learn About Financial Aid?

by Tom Bottorf

Question: Our daughter’s high school counselor says there’s nothing we need to do regarding financial aid until her senior year. Is this correct? Answer: Unfortunately, this is what most school counselors say. They tend to focus on college admission requirements and SAT/ACT preparation, but they miss the College Funding element almost entirely. High schools (especially …

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401K Tax Strategies for College

Should I Increase My 401K Contribution To Get More Financial Aid?

by Tom Bottorf

Question: Our son is a junior in high school. I’ve heard that lowering the Adjusted Gross Income we declare on the FAFSA form should help our financial aid eligibility when he begins college. Is increasing my 401K contribution therefore a good strategy for getting more financial aid? Answer: NO! In fact increasing your 401K contributions …

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Quick Tips College Preparation Timeline and Tips for Juniors

Final College Lists Should Integrate EFC

by Tom Bottorf

Before a senior’s College List is complete, mom and dad SHOULD have a working knowledge of EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as well as the Financial Aid “Packaging Policies” of all the colleges under consideration. In fact, I’ll take it even a step further and suggest that… unless money is absolutely NO object whatsoever… understanding EFC and …

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