By Janet Eggenberger
What?! I Don't Qualify For ANY Financial Aid?!
I have had people ask me about college planning seminars and whether they are worth attending. Given the fact that I used to work for one, I would definitely say “YES!” There’s plenty that you can learn by attending one. However, I would caution one to really pay attention to the bottom line. What specifically are they trying to get you to do? What information are they promising?
Oftentimes, these planning services are trying to convince a client to come in to discuss your financial picture. Completion of your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will help determine the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) which is basically the amount that the government says your family can afford to pay for college. Grants, loans, and federal aid are based on that EFC. However, any institutional aid/scholarships (money direct from the university) does not need to be based on finances but rather is based on merit. That means these schools will give money as they determine and not just based on your finances. Some financial services try to get clients to restructure assets as a way to divert money that goes to determine your EFC. Purchasing a whole life insurance policy as an investment is one way to divert those assets. Research very carefully before making any financial decisions.
I’m sure that this goes without saying but think long and hard before committing to a seminar. Do your homework first. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars expecting a magic fix. It simply won’t happen. Research and educate yourself before proceeding.
Janet Eggenberger is a mom of three – a recent college graduate who just moved out, a college senior, and a high school junior. She is a graduate academic advisor at a private Chicagoland university.