The college funding process can be intimidating and stressful for both parents and children, and the impact of those decisions can linger long after graduation. Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisors and a former financial aid consultant at Occidental and Pitzer colleges, guides readers through the inner workings of the process in her useful book Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro.
Okun begins by discussing how high schoolers and even middle schoolers should be preparing for college: not just by focusing on their studies, but also by increasing community involvement, understanding standardized tests, and visiting colleges. Okun simultaneously guides parents in their financial choices during this time, through 529 and prepaid college plans, and more. For those who like to think ahead, this section should prove invaluable.
The next section, “Paying the Way”, is relevant to every college student and parent, no matter how late to the game. Here, Okun details the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS (College Scholarship Service) profile, and explains student loans, merit aid, grants, and all of the daunting forms and terminology used throughout the process.
Okun’s writing is clear and precise, and while she provides great detail throughout, she also summarizes each chapter with a short, one-page encapsulation of the topics discussed. Along with a glossary of terms, a selection of talking points for parents with their children, and a final section addressing money management during the college years, the book attacks the onerous subject of financial aid on several fronts.
More real-life examples of specific households’ financial situations, application processes, and the methods they used to fund higher education would have been nice. But with a bewildering array of possible scenarios, it’s understandable why Okun mostly steers clear of this. Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro is an excellent resource, one that could provide much-needed clarification and relief for families during what can be a challenging time in their lives.
Also available in paperback and ebook.