A tragedy & disservice: family advised not to try for aid

July 26, 2008

A family came in for consulting services looking for guidance and direction. The first strike against them was that their student was already a College Junior. College planning begins when your student is a High School Freshman or Sophomore. The second strike was they did not fill out any financial aid forms.

Here’s what happened. This family and student were very excited to head off to college. This student was accepted into her top college choice. She worked very diligently during her High School years to get good grades as well as extra studying so that she would score well on the SAT. She did.

Well off this family went to drop their daughter off a week or so before her first year of college. They arrived at the beautiful campus and felt the excitement in the air, the hustle and bustle of everything new. Students looked around wide-eyed and excited.

The first thing on their list was orientation. Parents and students were gathered around while the speaker told the campus history, activities and important events. Then the speaker announced that everyone should talk with a councilor afterward about financial aid.

Here is where the events sour. Our unsuspecting family won’t realize it for another 2 and a half years later when they come into my office.

This innocent family met with a councilor to talk about financial aid. The councilor asked them a couple financial questions and flat out said they would not qualify for aid because of their income and assets.

Here’s the tragedy. Because of what this councilor told this family, they never filled out any financial aid forms. None.

There are other factors besides financial need as to why colleges hand out money. While this family may or may not have qualified for need-based aid, they DID qualify for aid.

This student did very well on both the SAT test and had a high GPA. Had this family filled out the financial aid forms they would have received merit money. But because this family was duped into believing they would get nothing, they did nothing.

That is a tragedy and a complete disservice to these types of families.

My motto is “Know before you go.” What parameters does the college want? Does the college give out special merit money? Merit can be in the form of good grades, test scores or some special ability, such as first string harp player. Does your student have some special ability or talent that can be turned into merit money?

Had this family prepared like a good Boy Scout and researched their options, things might have turned out differently.

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