Check out this email we received from a guy a couple years back.

“I have a daughter freaking out at home…The price of a college education now is comical and…the struggling middle class get screwed. This financial formula that FASCA (sic) figures…is a joke. They decide that going into huge debt seems to be the American way. This country is going into the crapper.”

I think you’d agree that to an 18-year-old, getting accepted into her dream college is likely the biggest thrill of her young life. As a parent, you can also imagine how gut-wrenching it would be to have to tell your own child that you can’t afford to send her or him to their own dream school.

::: What He Didn’t Realize :::

What this father didn’t realize was that his child likely could have qualified for financial aid grants and other merit-based scholarships, if he had the right strategy in place before his daughter had applied to college.

It’s a depressing story.

Sometimes we can let the sadness of a story overpower the lesson. And there is an incredibly valuable lesson in this father’s email which we don’t want you to miss (and we’ll get to in a second).

First, as 12th grade parents know, most college financial aid offices have to mail out their financial aid award letters on or by April 1st.

Unfortunately, some (maybe even many) families will find themselves unhappy with the contents of these letters. I hope that’s not your family, but if it is — you should know that in some cases, a financial aid award can be improved (even retroactively).

A financial aid offer is not written in stone! It’s actually a financial aid “offer” – meaning that it can be accepted, rejected — or appealed (which is academic speak for ‘negotiated‘).

The key to a successful ‘appeal’ is knowing whether you deserve one in the first place, and then building your case to get additional consideration.

Last year (as in years past), we were successful in more than 70% of the cases we appealed.

If you are the parent of a 12th grader who is unhappy with what your child’s dream school has offered, we put together a FREE guide: 4 Tips for Appealing Your Financial Aid Award. You can download it here.

Hopefully, you’ll find some useful nuggets that you can use to try to boost your child’s award.

For everyone else – especially for parents with 9th, 10th or 11th graders at home, the lesson is this: we can look ahead at people like this Dad, who went through this process already, and decide what we want and don’t want!

You don’t have to be like this Dad.

You can start planning for your child’s college education now. The sooner you do, the more options and scholarships your child will receive.

But if you wait until the last minute – until your child’s senior year of high school to figure this out, you’ll have few realistic strategies and even fewer good options at your disposal. Like this Dad.

No matter your child’s interests, aspirations, academic prospects, there are great colleges out there for them that will meet their needs and your budget.

The sooner you get started, the easier it is to find and help your child gain acceptance to them.

We don’t want you to make the same mistake this Dad did of waiting to April of your child’s senior year to figure this out.

Together we can make sure that you won’t.

– Peter and Jill Ratzan

P.S. We understand that, because we’re human, most families wait until absolutely the last minute to do everything. That’s why very few people are actually prepared for weddings, births, homes retirements and college educations for their children…but it doesn’t have to be this way.

PLEASE pass this post on to someone you know who’s stressed about how to send their child to college!

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