It's Not Easy......

....being a parent of a Senior in High School. When our daughter was born a little over 17 years ago we didn't even think about college. Let us enjoy this time, that's a long way off. Even as she went from Grade School to Jr. High, we said 'Oh, we have lots of time to ponder that'. As a Freshman in high school, thinking about college, choosing a career, and the financing of it all still seemed far off. But as we are realizing now, we wish we had really started planning then. We foolishly thought that a guidance counselor would walk us through the steps but how can they? One counselor has almost 400 students to take care of, our daughter has not even met hers this year. I guess if you're not a troubled kid, you never even get close.

As soon as she started school this fall I started doing research on filling out the FAFSA (financial aid application), and you know how it is when you look one thing up; 100 more like-minded topics show up. I was getting inundated with college info and found a local business that was holding a seminar about financial planning for college and financial aid. We went but were not impressed. The speaker seemed arrogant when he said that kids that go to Community Colleges will never finish their studies and move on to a 4-year college. I can't quite wrap my head around the thought that it's cheaper to go to a 4-year college than go to community college and live at home, but that's what he claimed. He seemed to be speaking to the elite and not the lower end of the totem pole like us. We didn't leave any information to be contacted about the 'free' follow up meeting in his office.

I continued my search and found a study guide for the FAFSA and started gathering information to answer the questions. The real form can be be filled out January 1st so I wanted to get a jump on it. It's about 27 pages long and asks so many personal/financial questions of both the student and the parents I told a friend that I'd rather go into a room and strip naked rather than fill out forms like this. My husband is also no help at all when it comes to filling out forms so the brunt of it lies on me.

I had also signed up for emails from another business, College Planning Network that pretty much does the same thing as the local company. After receiving at least one email a day to either watch a video or fill out their free financial analysis I finally caved and filled it out. After that, a phone call comes from a salesman. Hubby and I sat and listened to his deal as he went over our financial information. What he told us was grim. The fact that for years we have been putting money into a 529 fund was going to hurt our chances for financial aid. Because she receives SS checks of her own I also fund her savings account with part of that money. That will also hurt her because it is weighted more than if it were in our own savings. To make a long story short (I try), they can help us straighten things the tune of $3000.00 dollars. Huh? A minimal drop in the bucket compared to what they will save us in out of pocket college payments over 4 years, they say. Well, as usual with me, the waterworks came on and I had to walk away from the table. I came back but for me the conversation was over.

In a panic I emailed the local company and asked if 3K was the norm for services like that. Someone called me back within 15 minutes and explained that they offer the same services for 1300.00. Hubby and I made an appointment to see them and for the first time I finally feel a bit of relief; that at least we will get some help and guidance.

Since we are so late to the party it will be a fast paced couple of months. But they will fill out the FAFSA for us, tell us what to do with what assets she has, have her meet with a counselor to help her pick a college/courses and prepare her for a SAT retake. I have already moved her savings to our account and even though I can't do anything with her 529, I will stop funding it. They will even appeal if we don't get a favorable financial aid offer and the best part is that they will do this every year she is in college. I think that is money well spent and they have a 100% money back guarantee (up to 90 days.)

For anyone reading this that still has little ones in the house, please don't wait. Get yourself a college financial planner. It will save you so much heartache and stress. I was the parent that set up good homework habits from day one, and checked her work daily. We went to every parent/teacher meeting since Kindergarten. I contacted teachers when she was struggling. I just don't understand how I let something this important (the most important thing ever) slip through my fingers. I feel like a failure as a parent and that I have got her future off to a very bad start.

We have met with the guidance counselor and things look more hopeful. There will be no rest for a couple of months, or possibly the rest of the school year for all of us (except hubby). I have no doubt that she can do it, although she did cry last night just from the stress of it all. We will regroup and get this done so we can get this kid to college.


Grumpy said…
I've seen friends go through this, and while it is stressful, they all made it through the maze and got their kids into college.

Just hang in there and take it one step at a time.
bill said…
College is an expensive proposition. The sooner one can start planning and saving the better off you are. We helped our daughter but my son put himself through college, totally on his own by playing in bands at night and going to school during the day. My daughter also had to work holding down part-time jobs. Their dad wasn't a lot of help.
You will get there in the end. EHS George is looking at university now. I don't know how we will fund it, but I know we will.
fernvalley01 said…
Very scary, glad you are getting help with this
Mr. Shife said…
I got a little emotional over this post for two reasons. First you are an awesome mom and doing whatever it takes to make sure your daughter gets what she deserves, and second you remind me of my mom because she did the same thing for me. She is no longer with us but she spent so much time working on those FAFSA forms for me so I could get financial aid and get a chance to go to college so I could have opportunities that she never got. Keep up the good work, kden.
kden said…
Thanks Mr. Shife ;-)
Peruby said…
Been there.

I agree - it should not be that hard.
Snipe said…
It sounds like they're trying to badger you into paying them more money. Accredited junior college classes meet the same academic standards as lower-division university classes. You get a lot more bang for your buck with the jc, especially if the student can live at home.

You may want to inquire about work study. It's a form of financial aid, and it's good for a bit of extra money. Also, have you guys looked into scholarships? Some of the colleges and universities have scholarship catalogs in their financial aid office.
kden said…
Hi Snipe, thanks for stopping by! I know it sounds that easy but the bigger colleges will offer better financial aid packages so it's a better deal with less out of pocket for her to go there. We are looking at scholarships through washboard, which isn't as easy as they tell you. I'm sure work study will be a part of her financial aid. I did it when I went to school and I think it will be good for her. We have finally applied to one college including sending transcripts. She has made a resume and asked teachers for recommendation letters. Baby steps....

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