My professional background concerns the whys and wherefores of sending your babies to college, which, let’s be honest, makes for pretty dull barstool conversation, and well, as an INSIDER, I’m not really supposed to share the REAL loopholes because how embarrassing would it be to get a beat down at the hands of some vengeful financial aid advisors ‘cause I let loose their trade secrets? It’s not like they lift weights.
Still, were I to travel back in time with no knowledge of lottery numbers or professional sporting outcomes, I might consider:
1. Asking my parents to start me in kindergarten at 6 instead of 5 . (That extra year gets you closer to the age of independence, and at least personally speaking, A LITTLE MORE MATURITY COULDN’T HAVE HURT).
2. Telling my parents, ‘HELL NO,’ when they suggest getting a summer job to help with college tuition since every $2 a dependent student earns in a part time job can reduce financial aid by $1. Seriously, the harder a high school kid works, the more money he or she loses in financial aid. Sad.
3. Postponing college for maybe 2 to 3 years and joining a national service program like AmeriCorps (http://americorps.org/ ) , which will net you ten grand in scholarships, a zero dependent EFC (expected family contribution – the formula used to calculate financial need), up to a year of free college credit at certain schools (through something called life experience credit) which means you only need 3 years to graduate, not to mention the potential matching scholarships for AmeriCorps participants, plus let’s say you fall in love and get married, then the government will disregard your parental income BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL PAY YOUR SCHOOLING IF YOU GET MARRIED OR MAKE BABIES. Weird. And every baby means more financial aid. OCTUPLE SIZE IT.
4. Exploring the myriad of wonderful, different types of schools out there that no one has ever heard about that OFTEN CHARGE ZERO TUITION, like Berea College (http://www.berea.edu/ ), or Deep Springs (http://www.deepsprings.edu/ ) , or Cooper Union (http://www.cooper.edu/ ) , or Alice Lloyd College (http://www.alc.edu/ ) . Considering one of the terrific public two year or four year schools that as long as you can get state residency (SEE STEP 3) will charge you pennies on the dollar and give you skills that can actually help you remain employed.
5. SPENDING all that graduation money I got IMMEDIATELY on parachute pants, cassette player boom boxes, Ho-Hos and Lode Runner because dependent student assets will hurt your financial aid. (Pay off that credit card debt before filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, ya know?)
6. LEARNING ABOUT HEALTHY OPPOSITE SEX RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE ENROLLING IN COLLEGE. Really. If I had spent as much time on my calculus final as I did WONDERING WHY THE GIRL IN 18TH CENTURY FRENCH LIT NEVER RETURNED MY STARES I wouldn’t really be all that concerned with the economy. Or Victor Hugo, for that matter.
7. OOH! OOH! I might also considering filling out all my applications in January (even estimating taxes, since it’s allowed) because it is a first come, first served (AKA DOG EAT DOG) system . And also being unbearably quirky on my scholarship applications, because after reading 200 essays, most scholarship application readers have to physically cut themselves just to feel human emotion.
Oh, there are other things I would do in terms of taxes and college savings plans and backpacking through Europe, but right now I am busy calculating how much the return of daylight savings time will impact my ability to finally finish reading Les Miserables.
Brandon Rogers is the author of Ten Things You Gotta Know About Paying for College , Ten Things You Gotta Know about Choosing a College and this: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/lists/bookdedications.html
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