Individual colleges set their own deadlines for applying for scholarships. In Georgetown’s case, the deadline for institutional scholarships is Monday, February 1. Also, many families file the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form asks for information about your family’s finances and allows a college to determine if students qualify for additional grants, low-interest loans, or work study funds. In Kentucky, the state’s priority deadline is March 15, but Georgetown College encourages families to get the FAFSA filed no later than March 1.
Parents and their high school seniors (and juniors) who are planning to attend college, if you happened to miss KET’s annual “live” College Financial Call-In earlier this week tune in to a repeat showing on KET KY. The Kentucky Channel (check your local listings) will air it at 2:30 p.m. on Friday (Jan. 29) and again at 4 p.m., Sunday (Jan. 31.)
Let the experts help you figure out how to pay for that all-important education.
Rhyan Conyers, our Financial Aid Director at Georgetown College since 2002, is on the panel of experts for the second straight year. The other panelists are: Shelley Park, Financial Aid Director, Eastern Kentucky University; Runan Pendergrast, Financial Aid Director, Bluegrass Community & Technical College; and Becky Gilpatrick of the KHEEA (Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Association)
Conyers, who has been with his alma mater’s financial aid operations since he graduated from Georgetown in ’97, loves to hear from the students themselves. “Most of the inquiries we get in our office come from parents,” he said. “But it’s great to talk to students and learn more about what’s on their mind.”
The three most pressing questions high school students and their parents have about financial aid, he said, are:
- Is going to college going to be affordable for my family and me?
- What determines how much aid I will get?
- What if something bad (like job loss, high medical expenses, etc.) has happened with my family? Can I still afford to go to college?
We then asked Conyers, now our Assistant Vice President for Enrollment & Student Financial Planning, to pinpoint some of the biggest issues.
Question: What SHOULD high school students and their parents KNOW as they start looking at Financial Aid for college?
Conyers’ Answer: They should know that every student and family situation is different, and that most colleges have systems in place to account for those differences. I find many families who make assumptions about college costs based on the published tuition/room/board price, or based on what one of their friends paid, or based on an online calculator. Their attempts to determine how much a college is going to cost are significant and well-intentioned, but ultimately they should know that their financial aid award will be based on lots of individual factors, and they won’t really know how much an individual college is going to cost until they receive an official award letter.
Question: Is there anything they should know about their own family finances before they begin talking to Fin-Aid offices?
Conyers: I encourage parents to have heart-to-heart conversations with their students about what they can afford, if anyone is willing to borrow, and the sacrifices that might be necessary. But before that stage, parents and students should do their best to figure out the type of college that is going to best suit their needs. That means visiting colleges together and discussing the pros and cons of each institution.
Question: Do you recommend parents hire a financial aid consultant….OR are most college Fin-Aid offices able to simply walk parents through the process?
Conyers: I suppose it depends on how much personal attention the family needs and how much they’re willing to pay for that extra personal attention. At many colleges like Georgetown, most financial aid offices are well-equipped to sit down with a family and talk them through the process from start to finish, and we’re glad to do that. But, some families feel like they need an independent outsider (like a consultant) to help guide them through the process and/or to help a family act as a stronger advocate on behalf of the student.
Question: Would it be too soon for the parents of a middle-chooler to call in to and/or listen to this show?
Conyers: If the parent is looking for nuts and bolts responses about how the process works, then it probably is too early. Financial aid programs have changed so much just in the 8+ years I’ve been in the field, so I can’t imagine what they will look like in another 8 years when a middle-chooler is looking at college. My best advice to that group is that they go ahead and talk with an investment advisor, banker, or other professional to see what their options are for saving for college. It always costs less money to save now than to borrow later, and the parents of a middle-schooler still have some time to save money for college.
More About Rhyan Conyers
Georgetown’s Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Student Financial Planning, he has directed the college’s financial aid operations since August 2002. A former Fulbright Scholar (one of 21 at GC since 1990!), Rhyan is a 1997 Georgetown College graduate and 1999 graduate of Vanderbilt University. He resides in Georgetown with his wife, Nicole Larkey Conyers (GC grad 2000, UK law school 2003) and son, Ephraim, age 5.
Asked if they already saving for Ephraim’s college, Rhyan said:
“Even though our son is only five years old, we’re surprised by the amount we’re able to save by contributing only small dollar amounts on a monthly basis. Some plans allow a person to contribute as little as $25 at a time. For families that start early enough, this can really add up over time.”
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