My Ideal College shares what a CSS Profile is and how it impacts financial aid

How A CSS Profile Impacts College Aid

My Ideal College shares what a CSS Profile is and how it impacts financial aid

This week’s blog covers the last bit of my interview with Jim Anderson of Making College Worth it.  If you miss the last two segments, Easy Tips to Reduce College Debt and Navigating the Confusing College Aid System, click on the titles to access.

One of the biggest aha-ha’s I got from my meeting with Jim is learning about the CSS Profile. I didn’t know about it at all before I met with him.

It turns out for financial aid that some colleges require FAFSA and some require a CSS Profile. CSS stands for College Scholarship Service. FAFSA provides federal aid through grants and loans. The CSS Profile provides aid through the state and the institution.

Jim says typically, the higher end colleges like Duke, Dartmouth, and Harvard use the CSS Profile. You can click here to see the list.

The way the CSS Profile looks at your assets for financial aid is very different than FAFSA. Also, not all schools are the same. While there is one FASFA form that is used across colleges, the CSS Profile is unique to the specific college. For example, one college may include looking at your home equity and another may not.

The biggest tip Jim has is to go to the net price calculator on the prospective college’s website. Inputting your data will give you an idea of how they are looking at your assets to determine need. You can click here to find the Net Price Calculator for any school you are considering.

If you want to learn more about FASFA, read my blog Navigating the Confusing Financial Aid System.

What questions do you have when it comes to funding your child’s college tuition? Let us know in the comments below and we will get the answer for you.

My Ideal College shares ways to use financial aid for college tuition

Navigating the Confusing Financial Aid System

My Ideal College shares ways to use financial aid for college tuition

How to pay for college is probably the number one stressor for parents. In my last post, I shared part of my interview with Jim Anderson of Making College Worth It. Jim helps parents find the right school based on their child’s interests and what the parent can afford. 

Last week, we focused on what parents should consider throughout their child’s life to help pay for college. You can click here to read that blog in case you missed it. In this week’s blog, we focus on the types of financial aid and why you need to pay attention to this sooner than later.

What are the types of financial aid parents and kids can get for college tuition?

Jim: There is need-based and merit-based aid. Need-based aid is awarded through the federal government, state government or colleges based on your family’s financial need.

Merit-based aid is usually awarded in the form of scholarships or grants based on your child’s academic performance or other talents or contributions, like in sports or the arts.

Why is it important to get an idea of the colleges your child wants to apply to in their freshman year of high school?

Jim: Colleges are different in the type of aid they offer. Some are need-based and others are merit-based. The focus of how the aid is calculated is very different. If it’s need-based, they will start looking at your financials in your child’s sophomore year. If you wait until senior year to look at your financials, you might have missed opportunities to adjust your income to make yourself look “poorer” for the aid. For example, you might put off selling stock or a getting a bonus that will inflate your income during those years they use to calculate your need-based aid. I ended up paying off my mortgage because I looked at my financials sooner than later. It saved me $7500, and it got me more need-based aid for when my daughter went to college than if I hadn’t done it.

For merit-based aid, they use the GPA from your child’s first three years of high school and their best SAT/ACT test scores. Plus, they will be looking for where your child has demonstrated leadership. They will look at sports or other activities that they have stayed with and learned from. For example, if your child ran track for three years and lettered in it.

Tell us more about FAFSA and what it is.

Jim: FAFSA is Free Application for Federal Student aid for need-based merit. It is made up of four different calculations – parents’ income, parents’ assets, student’s income, and student’s assets.

Why does FAFSA include the student’s income and assets into the calculation?

Jim: Kids get Christmas money, money from jobs, etc. The government thinks if it’s in your child’s account it must be for college.

Should every parent apply for FAFSA and if so, when?

Jim: Here in Georgia every parent should. It’s the only way to get preferred federal loans, as well as the Georgia Hope Scholarship. You should apply in October of your child’s senior year. Do not wait until May. Some merit-based aid can also be based on need. The FAFSA lets the college know who that is.

I hear horror stories from other parents about how hard it is to fill out the FAFSA forms. What are your thoughts?

Jim: It’s really not hard. You just need to pay attention to what they are asking. You can always click on the question mark icon if it’s unclear.

What tool is available for parents to determine their expected contribution?

You can go to the College Board website and use their expected contribution calculator. This will give you an idea of how much your family will be able to financially contribute each year of college.

What are your other pieces of advice for parents as it relates to paying for college?

Jim: One, work with a financial planner. They can help you look at different options like stocks, bonds, etc. to help pay for college. Two, if you are having to borrow too much to pay for college, you need to reconsider the school. There are a lot of great schools that can give your child the knowledge and skills they need for their career.

As you can see, Jim has a wealth of information on how to navigate the financial aid process. You can reach him at jimanderson@makingcollegeworthit.com or by phone 404-545-1369.

What additional questions do you have regarding financial aid for college? Tell us in the comments below. We will get the answers and use them in a future blog post.

My Ideal College shares tips on how to save on college debt.

Easy Tips to Help You Reduce the Amount of College Debt

My Ideal College shares tips on how to save on college debt.

Tax time is over. Even if you are getting money back, it’s still probably not enough to cover your child’s college tuition. Here lies the main stress that many parents face when it comes to sending your child to their ideal college. How am I going to pay for it? How much college debt will I or my child have to face in order to get their education?

This is why I am excited to share my interview with Jim Anderson of Making College Worth It. Jim helps parents find the right school based on their child’s interests and what the parent can afford. Jim was a financial planner, but after helping his kids with the college process he saw a need to better help parents understand and balance the costs with the child’s interests and needs. As Jim says, “Money has to be part of the discussion when choosing a college. It’s way more expensive than when we went to school. Less than .2 of college applicants get a full ride for college.

Jim provided so much guidance that I am breaking down our interview into a series of blogs. This week, I am focusing on what Jim shared with me about what parents should be considering during their child’s life.

What should parents be thinking about from birth to middle school when it comes to how to pay for college?

Jim: Parents need to remember they only have 18 years to plan how they will pay for college. They should consider putting money into a 529 Plan because you do not pay taxes on the growth. You want to be conscientious of how much money you put in to start in case your child does not end up going to college. Parents should also work with a financial planner. They can suggest a mix of stocks and bonds to help pay for college. 

One great tip Jim shared is for parents to sign up for UPromise. It a loyalty program that you can receive anywhere from 2% – 5% back from things you normally purchase that will go in your child’s college education fund. As a bonus, UPromise will kick in another 15% if you have a 529 Plan. Jim had a client that saved $18,000 just from UPromise.

What should parents be thinking when their child is in high school?

Jim: The mistake I see parents make is they come up with a list of dream schools. They put names to them without researching the school or costs. First, parents need to figure out what their expected family contribution will be for college tuition. You should focus on what you can afford first. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for a road of ruin.

Tell me more about your heart versus wallet career analogy.

There are kids who want careers that are from the heart but do not make a lot of money. You need to consider this when choosing a college.  You can’t assume you will live a great lifestyle with a $30,000 job and $100,000 in college debt. There are a lot of schools that can give your child the skill sets they need for their career without putting you in severe debt.

In next week’s blog, I will share tips Jim shared about FASFA. This is the Federal Student Aid form you need to fill out when your child applies for college. I have heard horror stories from parents about filling it out. Jim makes it easy. If you can’t wait, you can watch my full interview with Jim here.

What tips have you found to help parents save on college debt? Tell us in the comments below.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Heart Without College Debt

A mom posted this question in a Facebook group. “How do you encourage your kids to follow their heart but not into debt?!”

It’s a tough question. On one side, we want to be encouraging and tell our kids to live their dreams. On the other hand, we also envision them being able to afford a house, raise a family, and retire at a decent age. I know I would have a hard time seeing my child struggle in making a living.  

Here are some of the many comments the mom received from her Facebook post:

“It’s impossible.”

“I tell my kids, I don’t care what they do, but they have to be able to support themselves.”

“Passion doesn’t pay the bills.”

“Be very clear about the debt – not only will it impact his/her ability to buy a home in the future, but it also impacts his/her ability to retire. Ask if it’s worth working another five or more years when they are in their 60’s. Because the money they’ll be spending to pay back debt in their 20s and 30s would be money, they could have put towards retirement.”

“Debt isn’t evil. Debt with a plan is the only way some of our kids will get a college degree.”

A parent recently shared with me that she wished someone had coached her before her kids went to college. The parent ended up derailing their own retirement dreams to help out their child in college debt. The child lived at home for years to help offset the debt.

Here is how you can help your child balance their career dream and the financial impact it may have:

  1. Research, research, research the career. Too many kids think they want a particular job then a year or two after college they realize they hate it and don’t want it as a career
  2. Have them find out the annual salaries for the career they want. ONET Online is an excellent resource for this.
  3. Understand the projected growth for the career. Will there be more or fewer jobs in the future? Where are these jobs located?
  4. Determine where they can get the education and figure out the costs – room, board, meal plans, books, etc.

Once your child completes these steps they can then better determine if they still want to pursue their dream career.  Maybe they are willing to incur the debt and will set a clear plan of how they will pay it off.  One parent on Facebook suggested that kids Listen to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or Chris Hogan’s Everyday Millionaire.

This is why it’s essential to help your child determine their career choices in sophomore and junior years of high school. You need the time to create a clear financial plan to get them to their ideal college. I suggest you work with a college financial planner that can help you with economic aspects like merit aid and scholarships.

What are your thoughts or ideas on this topic? Tell us in the comments below.

Contact me if you want to make sure your child is making the right career choice. I utilize a career assessment that matches a person’s interest directly to specific jobs. The jobs have been thoroughly researched on what it takes to be successful and what could derail success. Email me at laurie@myidealcollege.org.


A Career Decision That Turned into $80,000 in Debt

A parent shared with me that her first child, John, always wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Ever since he was in middle school, John was sure that was the career he wanted. The parents felt confident about his choice because that was what he wanted to do for so many years. So, their son went to college to be an anesthesiologist. But, a couple years into college, he realized he didn’t like anesthesiology. There were parts of the studies and the career John didn’t love. He just wasn’t interested in pursuing it anymore. He had a side job in sales that he really liked and decided to change his major to business. John now has a career in sales that he loves but is in $80,000 in college debt from starting his path in anesthesiology.

This parent contacted me because they wanted to make sure they didn’t make the same mistake with their second son.

How can you as a parent help your child avoid the same mistake? When they say, “I know what I want my career to be in. I am sure of it.” How can you feel more assured of their decision? Here are some easy tips for you:

  • Tip 1: Have your child talk to people currently working in their career of interest. This is an excellent opportunity for your child to find out what it’s like to work in that field. They can find out the schooling required, what a typical day is like, and tasks that are part of the job that they may not like so much. I recently connected a student interested in voiceover acting with someone in that field. It turns out there is a voice actor convention in a few weeks where she can attend and learn more.
  • Tip 2: Find out what courses are required to achieve a degree in that major. If John had done that, he would have realized much sooner that he didn’t want to be an anesthesiologist and wouldn’t be $80,000 in debt.
  • Tip 3: Have your child take a career assessment. This is very beneficial for kids who have no idea what they want to do, or if you want to make sure your child is picking a career they will enjoy.  There are many different career assessments. You want to make sure your child takes one that is linked to data based on actual jobs.  Contact me at laurie@myidealcollege.org if you want to learn more about using a career assessment to help your child.

In the end, your child’s career decision may stay the same, and that is great. You will have more confidence in their education and career path.  After following these tips, your child may decide they want to pursue a different career that is more aligned with what they naturally like to do. This is great news because you potentially saved yourself and your child future debt from heading down the wrong path.

It’s a win-win situation.

Does your child a have an interest in a career but doesn’t know anyone in that field? Feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to try to help connect them with a professional in their area of interest.

My Ideal College shares how to not let college debt put a hold on your retirement.

How to Avoid Putting Your Retirement On Hold

A parent recently told me……

“I am facing retirement in less than two years. I wish I put my children’s hopes and dreams into perspective. College kids aren’t the only ones who take out education loans. More parents need to understand the impact of their child’s future on their own hopes and dreams.”

Debbie, Parent
My Ideal College shares how to not let college debt put a hold on your retirement.

My husband and I dream of traveling more in retirement. We hope to get an RV and travel all across the United States. While we are on target, we need more savings to retire. The good news is that we do have 529 plans for our kids, but it’s not nearly enough to cover their entire tuition for a standard four-year institution.

We are not alone. Many parents start college savings plans shortly after their kids are born. Yet, as they get closer to graduating from high school, we realize it’s not enough.

As parents, we are invested in helping our kids find and live their hopes and dreams. I know I would do anything to help my kids live their best life. But how much am I willing to derail my dreams for them?

I have one easy tip for you to help relieve some of that fear. That is to reach a mutual agreement between you, your spouse, and your child about the educational path your child will pursue after high school. The path should drive them towards their career. Makes sense, right? It’s why we pay the $100,000 plus tuition because we expect our children to get jobs in the field their major is in.

Here is why this is so important. A friend of mine has a nephew who had a dream of working in the audio-visual field. My friend and the mom knew the child was not “college material.” The father was fine with the field his son wanted to go into, BUT he was insistent that he attend a four-year institution. The son attended and dropped out a year and a half later. It wasn’t because of the audio-visual courses, it was the other courses required for graduation that he suffered. That year and a half put the family $20,000 in debt. That put a big dent into their retirement fund.

Think about these questions:

  • What are the career aspirations you have for your child?
  • Are they realistic for what your child’s interests are?
  • What kind of financial support can you provide for your child’s post high-school education?
  • How open are you to considering educational options other than a four-year college?

Next, have your child answer these questions:

  • Where do they see their future?
  • What are their career aspirations?
  • If they have specific careers in mind, what about those careers appeals to them?
  • What are the different educational options for that career – four-year college, technical college, certification?

Once you have a clear answer to these questions, have a conversation with your child. Then come to a mutual agreement on a path and start planning for it.

If your child is unclear on what career they are interested in, there are options for you.  Many high-schools offer free career assessments. Some are better than others. You want to make sure the assessment suggests actual jobs versus broad fields and that it’s directly tied to your child’s natural interests.

At My Ideal College, we use assessments that directly correlate a child’s interests into actual jobs. We are able to match your child’s interests based on the research of what it takes to be successful in each role.

Please contact us to help get your child started on the right path and you to your retirement dreams. Give us a call at 678-761-3550 or email us at support@myidealcollege.org.

The Secret To Saving Money When Paying for College

The Secret to Saving Money When Paying for College

The number one challenge for parents with teenagers is paying for college. Let’s look at the numbers.

$20,000 (average cost of college per year) x 4 = $80,000

That is if your child goes to school for just four years. Research shows that the average length has gone from four to six years. If they go six years, you are looking at the cost of $120,000. I’m not a math whizz, but I know that’s enough money to buy a vacation home or travel through Europe a few times! College, no doubt, is a huge financial investment.

Here is more depressing news on college costs…Last year, the department of education released a report saying that 30% of beginning college students change their major within the first 3 years. Changing majors can add an additional $25,000 to college costs. Check out my article on Tips for Avoiding the Costly Effects of Changing Majors.

Worst yet, research shows that nearly 2 million students who begin college each year drop out before earning a diploma. If your child drops out you could still be in debt. I know of a family whose son, Stephen, dropped out of college after a year and a half. Those 18 months in college put the family $20,000 in debt.

So, what’s the secret when paying for college? If you start identifying your child’s college interests early and don’t procrastinate, there are huge financial and personal benefits for everyone.

Have you heard my story? I thought my dream job was to be a marine biologist until I found out how much math was involved in earning that degree. If I had started exploring what it took to be a marine biologist earlier, I could have potentially avoided picking the wrong college major, saving myself a lot of heartache and my parents a lot of money. You can click here to see more of my story.

I recently worked with a student, Eddie, who had no idea what he wanted to do as far as college. His parents weren’t quite sure if hewas ready for a traditional four-year college. In working with him, we identified more than 15 jobs that he would truly enjoy and discovered that he could get the education he needed by going to technical schools. Think of all themoney those parents are saving when paying for college! As a bonus, the jobs hematched with made at minimum $60,000 a year!

Here three easy steps in helping your child start identifying their ideal college early:

Step 1: Talk

You need to start having these conversations in their freshman year of high school. I know as a parent, we may think it’s too early or we get sad at the thought of our child “leaving the nest.” In reality, its the best time to talk to your child about this. Ask if they have thought about colleges they want to go to and why. Ask what careers they find interesting. For more tips on how to have these conversations, you can download my free guide by clicking here.

Step 2: Complete a career assessment

There are many career assessments out there. Many high schools will have free ones you can access. However, they typically only look at your child’s strengths but don’t match them to specific jobs. The best career assessments tie the child’s natural abilities to actual jobs.  I have a deep love for assessments and can help you find the right one. You may find that, like my client Eddie, your child’s ideal career may include a path other than college.  Whatever your unique results, you and yourchild will be better equipped to select the right colleges that offerthe right major to prepare them for the career they want.

Step 3: Research Colleges

Once your child has identified potential careers, they can start researching what colleges offer the education needed. There are some online tools for this. Here is one from Princeton Review. You can filter colleges by major, states, tuition, etc.

Identifying your child’s college interests early will reduce your stress when thinking about paying for college. It really saves your time, money, and sanity. Comment below with additional questions you may tips you’d like to share.

Is your child still unsure about what they want to major in? Being undecided can impact the number of years they are in school and how much money comes out of your wallet. Set up a complimentary strategy session to ask your questions so we can help. Click here to set up a time or give us a call at 678-761-3550.

Changing College Majors Can Be Costly

Tips for Avoiding the Costly Effects of Changing College Majors

John is currently in his third year as an English college major. He thought he wanted to be a college English professor but says now that he’dlike to “do English” as a hobby but not a career. Often, peoplewho “like reading and writing” become English college majors only to find outit’s not what they thought it would be.

Costly effects of changing college majors

Science classes were always Connor’s favorite in high school. He loved being outdoors at the beach, rivers, and lakes. He was fascinated with fish and fishing. Although the parents didn’t know much about that field, they trusted that Connor had a career path in mind. It wasn’t until after he graduated that he realized that all the interesting fisheries jobs that paid well required a Masters or Ph.D. While Connor loved fisheries, he wasn’t willing to go back to school. After taking a career assessment and getting coaching he is thriving in Hospitality Management and he goes out fishing as often as he can.

There are thousands of stories of kids realizing they made the wrong choice for their college major. They picked their major based on a particular career. I was one of those kids, too. I went to school thinking I was going to be a marine biologist because I loved the water. You can hear more of my story here.

The U.S. Department of Education reported last year that about 1 in every 10 students change their major more than once. (see report)

While changing majors is not a new concept, it can be a costly one. The average costs for college can be up to $20,000 a year. Multiply that by at least four years, then you have a total cost of $80,000. If your child changes majors, then you are likely looking at them spending more than four years in college. Research shows that the average length has gone from four to six years. If they go six years, you are looking at a cost of $120,000. I’m not a math whizz, but I know that’s enough money to buy a vacation home or travel through Europe a few times! College, no doubt, is a huge financial investment.

Many students, like Connor, graduate in a field that they never get a job in because they realize it’s not what they want to do.  That’s not getting the most bang for your college bucks. The purpose of going to college is to get the education you need for your career, not your hobby.

So how can you avoid the costly mistake of your child picking college majors that end up being more of a hobby versus a career? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Have your child talk to people currently working in the field they are interested in. This is a great opportunity for your child to find out what it’s really like to work in that field. They can find out the schooling they will need, what a typical day is like, tasks that are part of the job that they may not like so much.

Tip 2: Find out what courses are required to achieve a degree in that major. If I had done that, I would have realized much sooner that I didn’t want to be a marine biologist. My loathing for math was much bigger than my love of the water.

Tip 3: Enroll your child in a camp closely related to the field they are interested in. If your child is interested in being a video game developer, there are many camps where they can do this. This can help them decide if they really like doing it or maybe it should be a hobby, not a career.

Tip 4: Have your child take a career assessment. This is very beneficial for kids who have no idea what they want to do or if you want to make sure your child is picking a career versus a hobby. It’s a fast-track way to identify careers they will enjoy.  There are many different career assessments. You want to make sure they take one that is linked to data based on actual jobs.  Contact me at laurie@myidealcollege.org if you want to learn more about using a career assessment to help your child.

Remember, just because your child loves doing something doesn’t mean it’s a career and should be their college major. Take the steps to make sure you are helping your child plan for their future and keeping hard-earned money in your bank account.