The Smart Money’s With You: Tips for Financing College

The 2020–21 school year may be different from any before, but the Class of 2021 is still marching on toward high school graduation. That means it’s still college application season, and before long, students across our community will be receiving those highly anticipated envelopes in the mail. Of course, getting that long-awaited “Yes” from the college of your choice is only the first step.

Once you or your child gets into college, the next question is, “How will you pay for it?” And, while many families have been planning for this moment for years, if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that plans don’t always work out. So, if you’re figuring out how to pay for college for yourself or your child, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

FAFSA, FAFSA, FAFSA

If you’re figuring out how to pay for college, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is where it all starts. Even if you don’t expect to qualify for federal aid, some state and school-based aid (including student loans) requires the FAFSA for consideration.

Sooner is better for filling out your FAFSA—some aid is first-come, first-served—but if you’re late in the game, don’t worry. You can be considered for federal student aid for the 2021–22 award year as long as you complete the FAFSA by June 30, 2022. That’s also the deadline for New York State aid.

SCHOLARSHIPS: DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If you’re going to college, you’ve almost certainly learned how to do research. If you haven’t, you’ll need to. Start by looking for any scholarship you might be eligible for. Some of them may be small, but when you think about everything that goes on top of tuition—books, room and board, activity fees—every little bit helps. Plus, unlike loans, scholarships don’t need to be paid back, so every dollar you receive means less debt after you graduate.

The scholarships you’ve most likely heard of—athletic scholarships, National Merit Scholarships—are just the tip of the iceberg. Between local community organizations and businesses, industry organizations related to your field of study, religious organizations, and other sources, there are scholarships you’ve never even heard of just waiting for you to apply.

If you need help navigating the wide—and we do mean WIDE—world of college scholarships, it won’t be hard to find. Start with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Scholarship Search Tool, work with your high school’s guidance office and college’s financial aid office, and branch out to databases like Scholly, Cappex.com, and the College Board’s BigFuture Scholarship Search.

LOANS: BE SMART

If you do need to take out loans, make sure you’re smart about it. Evaluate your options, including federal loans, and make sure you don’t get in over your head.

If you’re paying for college for one or more of your children, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan can be a smart choice, allowing you to use your home’s equity to cover education expenses (and many other things). Suffolk Federal’s home equity products offer low rates and no closing costs—on loans up to $250,000 or a HELOC of up $500,000—to help you finance college through easy, affordable payments. Suffolk Federal is an Equal Housing Lender.

To find out more, contact us to discuss the option that works best for you.

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