Crash course for college

Posted by Rachel Leigh email

(WFLX)- Lisa Burgoon is a college coach, but you won't find her on the field or on the ice. She's an educational consultant who mentors students and their parents on the do's and don'ts of getting into college and paying for it.

Burgoon says it's very much a chess game; it's all about timing and strategy. "Being organized, being vigilant and doing it early."

Burgoon says, if the need is now, every parent must fill out the FAFSA, a federal financial aid application, whether you think you qualify or not. "It's not based on how much your house costs, what your mortgage is, it's based on how much money you bring in and what your expenses are."

If you have a high school senior who's starting college and money is tight or non-existent, know this: "Tuition is never negotiable, but financial aid is always negotiable".

Burgoon says schools admissions officers are willing to haggle. "They would rather get a call from a student they are interested in, letting them know if the money [is there] and is more aid available? Than for the student to just decide not to go to school there."

Once you arrive on campus, it may be too late for large scholarships, but you need to look at all the possibilities: grants, loans and work-study programs. "Most students come out of Georgia Tech with no loans because they've spent every semester working and making the money to pay for college."

If you do have to take out a loan to pay for college, Burgoon says, let the student bear some financial responsibility. Parents should never take out a second mortgage or tap into their 401ks.

Another money saving measure, look to community colleges. You can get a leg up with a two-year degree or satisfy your core requirements rather than moving to an university for specialty courses.

If you have a high school junior or younger, start planning immediately and know the best financial aid is institutional aid that's renewable through the school each year.

And learn this from Burgoon and her daughter, Kate. Kate just got into her dream school and has a full ride. "I am exceptionally proud."

And she's exceptionally smart, but she also deals with the daily struggle of dyslexia. So how did she rise above her disability to earn her high marks? It's one of her mother's trade secrets, spend money on tutoring for standardized tests, and you'll you can get a good return on your investment. "The score in reading alone. The score went from a 24 to 33. The scholarship she got is worth $53,000 over four years. I spent $700!"

You can find scholarships in your area through businesses, social clubs, even the military. Just ask around. Also, more help is available online.

Outside the classroom, Burgoon says, extracurricular activities are good. But part-time jobs are even better. They show responsibility, leadership and income something we all need in these difficult economic times.