Now more than ever in today’s tough economy, families are searching high and low for every dollar of scholarship and financial aid money they can find. And colleges are more determined than ever to create as many obstacles to getting that aid as possible.

As a parent, your mindset is “How can I get the most help to pay the college bill?”
But, the college’s mindset is “How little can I offer you and your student to get you to come to my school?”

In a perfect world, financial aid funds are supposed to go to those who need the money the most. But the truth of the matter is, that more financial aid goes to the students and the families who best understand how financial aid works.

90% of families out there don’t really understand how financial aid works and the colleges like it that way.

These are five BIG mistakes the colleges LOVE for you to make (there are more) because it means they will be able to make you pay more of the college bill:

1. Forgetting that you’re a “shopper”. Colleges love when you get the blinders on and focus on one or two colleges. If there’s no competition, you have nowhere to go when they give you a fraction or none of the financial aid you are actually eligible to receive. Colleges LOVE you when you make this mistake.

2. Assuming a college is too expensive. You will walk by a private college with a price tag of $55,000 but is one that might have had an-out-of-pocket cost of only $25,000. All because you assume it is “too expensive”. And then you’ll apply to an out-of-state public college that will charge you $48,000 – because it’s “cheaper”. And that college will only give you a $5,500 student loan. Colleges LOVE you when you make this mistake.

3. Waiting until your Senior year to start thinking about paying for college. If you want to increase your chances of getting the most scholarships and financial aid, financial aid planning should start as early as 10th grade. But, if you’re one of the 90% of families out there who wait until it’s time to apply for financial aid before they start thinking about how to pay for college. Colleges LOVE you when you make this mistake.

4. Failure to stay focused on the financial aid process. Financial aid doesn’t just fall out of the sky or happen magically. There are a lot of details you need to stay on top of, and the colleges LOVE you when you make this mistake, too.

5. Focus your time and attention where there’s hardly any money. You will concentrate 98% of your time where 2% of the money is – trying to chase after all those “little known scholarships” that supposedly go “unclaimed” every year. And while you’re spending your time doing that, you’re neglecting your college applications and the rest of the financial aid process. You’ll throw these together at the last minute and give the colleges plenty of reasons to say “NO”. Colleges LOVE you when you make this mistake.

If you realize you might be making one or more of these mistakes, there is no need to throw up your hands and give up. Get some help.

It may seem strange to pay for help when you want to reduce college expenses. But, the truth of the matter is, few families out there have the time and /or the expertise to know how to get the most financial aid.

That certainly was the case with Doreen and Pat. Having already gone through the college application and financial aid process with their two other daughters, they knew how easy it was to make mistakes and end up with meager financial aid awards. They were burned out and cash-poor trying to pay for their two older daughters’ college bills.

They didn’t want to limit their youngest daughter’s college opportunities because of the mistakes they had already made with the first two. In spite of having done the whole thing twice already, they knew they needed a better plan.

They got out of overwhelm, got their daughter into the top-tier school she wanted and were able to save over $56,000 on the college bill.

Instead of being penny-wise and pound foolish, they realized that spending a bit of money up front would more than pay for itself. Thanks to proper planning, they went from the colleges expecting them to pay the full bill to actually having the colleges “pay” them $14,000 per year.

(If you’re wondering how much it cost them to get that help, it was less than 5% of the money they saved on the college bill.)

Author's Bio: 

Jeanmarie Keller has helped thousands of students get into colleges they love while making sure their parents save a fortune on the bill. Jeanmarie is the creator of the Smart Plan For College System which teaches her client-families how to get noticed in the admissions office, get in at the colleges right for them and how to get the money they need to help pay the bill.

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