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How a College Visit Turned into My Own Personal Nervous Breakdown Thumbnail

How a College Visit Turned into My Own Personal Nervous Breakdown

A couple of weeks ago, I took my oldest daughter on a college visit to my alma mater – Ohio University. As we strolled through the campus, I couldn’t help but feel like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” New buildings had sprouted like academic mushrooms, restaurants had multiplied faster than calculus problems, and pathways had shifted like quantum particles. Yet, amidst this whirlwind of change, it was also exactly the same - comforting and familiar.

We approached my old dorm, and it was like time had stood still. Suddenly, I was no longer a grown-up parent; I was a wide-eyed undergrad, backpack slung over one shoulder of my favorite Abercrombie shirt, trying not to trip up Richland Ave. in my platform flip flops. But there was a twist: The faces milling about were strangers. No familiar smiles, no nostalgic nods. Just a sea of Gen Z students, Snapchatting and rizzing their way to class.

And that’s when it hit me: My baby – the one who carried around a purple lamb everywhere she went – was about to spread her wings and fly. College-bound, leaving the nest, and taking her dreams (and possibly Lamby) with her. Cue mom panic mode!

But wait, there’s more! Who’s footing the bill for this grand adventure? Is it the magical money tree in the backyard? Spoiler alert: It’s not. So my fellow stressed-out parents, grab your calculators and emotional support snacks. We’re diving headfirst into the deep end of college financing. It’s like a rollercoaster ride where the only safety harness is your bank account. But fear not, future empty nesters! I’m here to guide you through the abyss of tuition bills and scholarship applications.

1. The Alphabet Soup of College Funding: FAFSA, SAI, and SAR

Let’s start with the basics. Imagine you’re at a fancy restaurant, and the waiter hands you a menu written in ancient Greek. That’s how most parents feel when they encounter acronyms like FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), SAI (Student Aid Index), and SAR (Student Aid Report). What are they? Glad you asked!:

  • FAFSA: The magical form that determines your child’s eligibility for grants, loans, and work-study programs. It’s like Hogwarts acceptance letters, but with more               math.
  • SAI: Think of it as the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s financial aid factory. The lower your SAI, the more aid you get. Just don’t fall into the chocolate river.
  • SAR: The report that magically appears after you submit the FAFSA. It’s like receiving a Hogwarts owl, but instead of an invitation to wizard school, it tells you how         much you’ll pay for college. Amazing!

2. The 529 College Savings Plan: Your Financial Magic Wand

Picture this: You’re a wizard, and your child’s education is your magical quest. Enter the 529 College Savings Plan! It’s like Dumbledore’s wand, but instead of casting spells, it grows tax-free money. Here’s why it’s awesome:

  • Tax Advantages: More than two-thirds of states offer state income tax deductions or credits for contributions to a 529 plan1. Paying less tax is always a bonus!
  • Start Early: Enlist the help of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and that weird neighbor who collects garden gnomes. Everyone can contribute to the 529 plan. It’s like a         crowdfunding campaign for your child’s brain.

3. Scholarships: The Treasure Hunt of Academia

Imagine scholarships as hidden treasure chests scattered across the college landscape. Some are guarded by dragons (competitive essays), while others require solving riddles (math problems). Here’s how to find them:

  • Spring of 11th Grade: Encourage your child to hunt for scholarships. It’s like sending them on a quest to find the Holy Grail, but with less sword fighting.
  • College Scorecard: Use this magical tool to compare colleges and find the best deal. It’s like Tinder for universities, minus the awkward swiping. (Although you                   might still get ghosted.)

4. The Art of Saving: A Symphony in Dollar Bills

Saving for college is like composing a symphony. You start with a few notes (pennies) and build a masterpiece (tuition fund). Here’s your sheet music:

  • Past Income: Raid your piggy bank, check under the couch cushions, and dig up those ancient coins. Past income (savings) is your opening melody.
  • Current Income: Keep the cash flow steady and keep saving. It’s like maintaining a rhythm section in your financial orchestra.
  • Future Income (Student Loans): Ah, the dramatic crescendo! Student loans are like borrowing from a mysterious benefactor. Just make sure the interest rates                   aren’t higher than your blood pressure at this point.

5. Keep Your Sense of Humor Intact:

Last but not least, don't forget to keep your sense of humor intact. Trust me, you're gonna need it. From navigating the FAFSA maze to deciphering financial aid award letters, there's plenty of opportunities for laughter (or tears, depending on the day). So, grab a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and remember: you've got this.

And there you have it, folks! Navigating the wild world of college financing might feel like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded, but with a little humor and a whole lot of determination, you'll have that tuition bill paid off faster than you can say "student debt for life." So, go forth, fearless parents, and may the financial aid odds be ever in your favor!

If you need help deciphering FAFSA or mastering the art of scholarship hunting, please feel free to reach out to me to schedule a consultation – jennifer.jenkins@bluestonewp.com.


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