Planning for College

September is National College Savings Month, which is why we have focused so much on College Planning. We held one College Planning Webinar on September 20th that discussed ways to save for college, such as 529 Plans, UGMA and UTMA accounts and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Our second College Planning Webinar on October 4th will review what you need to know if you have a child going off to college soon. We will go over how to calculate your expected family contribution (EFC) as well as different financial aid options.

To help you get started with this process and be prepared for our upcoming webinar, here are some important facts to know if you have a high school student headed to college:


1. All schools require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or more commonly known as the FAFSA. This application determines who will qualify for state and federal aid. Most schools use it to calculate who will receive money from them. Go to https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa for more information.


2. Approximately 200 undergraduate schools use the CSS Profile application in addition to the FAFSA to determine who qualifies for their own institutional aid. Visit https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/ to learn how to apply and which schools participate. If you plan to attend a school that uses the CSS Profile, you still need to complete the FAFSA.


3. You can access both the FAFSA and CSS Profile applications starting October 1st of your child’s senior year of high school. If your child applies for “Early Decision” or “Early Action,” the CSS Profile deadline is in November. However, each school has its own financial aid deadlines.


4. The FAFSA application will ask about investment accounts for students and parents, but you do not have to include any qualified retirement accounts, such as IRAs, 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, KEOGH, SIMPLE, 457, SEP, Roth IRAs, Roth 401(k)’s, pension plans or annuities.


5. You need to complete the FAFSA every year your student is in school because it is heavily dependent upon your income, which can change annually.


6. The FAFSA does not cost anything to complete while the CSS Profile costs $25 for the initial application and college report. Any additional college reports cost $16 each.


7. Be sure to file early for the FAFSA as some state grant programs and work-studies are on a first-come, first-served basis.


If you still have questions, which we know you will, please reach out to us anytime at (301) 733-7777. If you have not already done so, be sure to sign up for our College Planning Webinar: College Bound on Monday, October 4th at 5:30 PM: https://www.sterlingfm.com/event-details/college-planning-102-college-bound

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