Congratulations! Your son or daughter will soon walk across the stage to receive his or her diploma. You will be sitting in the audience and there is a pretty good chance the speaker will quote “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. Your child’s graduation day is one of the happiest days of your collective lives. Each time one of your children reaches this milestone, it is a sign that changes are coming (and tax deductions may be leaving). We have collected a list of resources to help you with your journey.

Applying For Financial Aid

College is almost an expectation after high school, but many aren’t sure they can afford it. The U.S. Department of Education provides financial assistance to students planning to attend college or career school. They have developed a document called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the application is available online. The FAFSA form is the gateway to more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year. Wantonia Gee, financial aid counselor at Old Dominion University, gave these three tips for parents and students applying for financial aid.

  1. Submit the FAFSA as soon as it’s available. The early bird gets the worm! You do not need to wait until you file your taxes to submit the FAFSA.
  2. Include any school that you are thinking about applying to. You are able to list up to 10 schools at one time on the FAFSA form. Even though you can add other schools later, it does delay you receiving your financial aid award letter.
  3. Stay in contact with the school the student will be attending to see if there are any other applications or documents available to apply for other grants, scholarships, etc.

Beyond the FAFSA

There are other options for financing your education outside of those available through the FAFSA. Even if you finish your FAFSA form early, you may want and need to supplement what is offered to you.

Scholarships are the most common forms of financial aid outside of the Department of Education. There are millions of scholarships available for students. Some are general and others are much more stringent. According to the scholarship website Fastweb!, there were over $2.9 billion in unclaimed scholarships for 2015 alone.

Private Loans are another option. Many financial institutions offer loans for education. Consider shopping around, outside of your normal bank or credit union, for the best rate. Some schools even have their own credit union. Other loan options include 401k loans, home equity loans & intra-family loans. You should evaluate each option carefully to determine what will work best for you.

Employer Benefits are an option if you plan on working while in school. Check with your employer’s benefits department to see what kind of tuition assistance they provide.

Out of Pocket payments are another option. Consider paying with existing savings if you’re able. Many schools have interest-free payment plans available.

Student loans and tuition will have an impact on your finances and taxes each year. There are many options for paying for college. Make sure you meet with your financial aid counselor and your financial planner to ensure you are making the right choices for the long term.