I was answering a request for help from “Help A Reporter Out (HARO)” and decided to “Help A Student Out”, too, and post the tips I shared.

When it comes to the college admissions and financial aid process, you’ve got to approach it like a business because colleges are businesses. Benevolent, altruistic ones, but businesses none the less. Their job is not to make sure you get the most money possible, but to spread the money to as many students as possible. College Financial aid planning needs to be part of the entire college process early on. Waiting until it’s time to file for financial aid is too late.

One of the biggest mistakes I see parents making (and ones the colleges are happy to let them do because it works better for them) is to focus most of their time and attention searching for private scholarships at the expense of the money that is offered by the schools themselves.

Parents and students spend a ton of time looking for and applying to private scholarships which are essentially a “lottery” only to leave money on the table, so to speak, at the colleges themselves. The vast majority of money that’s available to help families pay for college comes from the schools themselves.

Here are three quick tips based on the advice I provide my clients and their parents:

So, tip #1: Devote most of your time looking for money in the right places — the schools themselves. Parents should spend their time scouring the financial aid websites at the schools their student is considering– they need to know what scholarships the school offers and what a student needs to do and be to qualify for that money and, most importantly, what the deadline is for that money. Know your deadlines and don’t miss them!

Which leads to tip #2: Don’t give the colleges a reason to deny you the money you’re eligible to receive by missing the deadlines. It sounds simple but it’s something that happens all the time. For example, a college’s application deadline might be “January 1? but then on a description for a scholarship it might say “To be considered for xyz scholarship you must apply to Cost-a-lotta U. by December 1?. Students and parents are so focused on the January 1 deadline they miss out on being considered for “xyz scholarship” at the school.

The third and final tip I can offer is to be sure to be sure you target the right schools. Since the majority of the money available comes from or through the colleges themselves, applying to a college that doesn’t have the money you need will only result in disappointment and frustration. Again, sounds simple but it really is something that families overlook when they’re caught up in the emotion of all of this.

Author's Bio: 

If you're looking for ways to get your student in to college and get the money you need to pay for it, and you know you definitely DON'T want to leave it to chance, contact me for a 30-minute 'Get Acquainted Session' to see if there are ways I can help you. Simply email me at coach@jeankeller.com and we'll set up a time to chat.