Tommy Dismukes has been the Director of Student Financial Services at Huntingdon College for 17 years and has 21 years total of experience working in financial services. But besides being a financial expert, Dismukes has two teenagers of his own that are on the road to college. He shared with us some of his best Tips for Paying for College:
1. Plan early.
Sound like a no-brainer? Believe it or not, many people wait until the last minute to start thinking about paying for college. Savings plans for Alabama include the CollegeCounts 529 Fund and CollegeCounts 529 Fund Advisor Plan.
2. Attend a financial aid presentation.
Knowing the process involved with applying for college financial aid is the key to unlocking the vault of college tuition dollars.
3. Complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
This should be done in January or February of your child’s senior year of high school. For the quickest turnaround of your information, fill out the FAFSA on the Web by visiting fafsa.ed.gov. If you prefer a paper FAFSA, a PDF version is also available for download on the website.
4. Be organized.
Applying for financial aid with different schools can become confusing. Keep application materials for each school in separate folders with a checklist on the front with a list of the required materials, deadlines and dates you requested or sent materials.
5. Don’t miss deadlines!
Late applications are automatically disqualified. Deadlines and criteria for financial aid requirements vary from school to school, which is why it’s important to apply early and meet all deadlines to maximize aid possibilities.
6. Visit the college.
It’s important to visit college campuses initially to see if it’s a good fit for your student, but it’s wise to make a trip to campus to establish a relationship with the schools’ financial aid office. School programs are the primary source of college funding. Ask what scholarship/aid programs are available, as well as work-study and alternative loan programs that may not be generally publicized.
7. Pursue outside scholarships.
Civic clubs, churches, nonprofit organizations, etc. are just a few ways you may be able to secure additional scholarship funding. Important (rule of thumb): If it’s a fee-based source (i.e. you’re asked to pay to apply), don’t trust it.
8. Know the tax credits/deductions available for college tuition.
Several different types of tax benefits are available for higher education, including: American Opportunity/Hope Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, tuition and fees deductions and student loan interest deduction.