Jodi Okun is the founder and president of College Financial Aid Advisors, which privately helps families with the financial aid process – from the beginning to the end. “I help them with all the financial aid questions they possibly can have,” said Okun.
Also, Okun is on Twitter and runs a Thursday night hashtag chat called, College Cash. A hashtag chat is:
- Located on Twitter
- Used to break conversations into mini conversations
- Hashtag is the number sign (#) in front of words
- Guests are invited to a formal chat to see the conversation that features a supplied topic and questions
- Students, parents, industry professionals, colleges, and others participate and give their opinions and advice
To participate in Twitter chats, you need to have a Twitter account. Try to use your first and last name for your username. Also, try to use that same username for other social sites, so people can find you.
Joining a Conversation
Conversations can be random or at schedules times. To join Okun’s hashtag chat or other ones, you need to:
- Have a Twitter account.
- Go to Twitter and sign in.
- In the white box in the right corner next to where it says “Tweet,” type #collegecash.
- Press Enter.
Then you will be able to see everyone’s comments. You can reply by pressing the arrow, agree with comments by re-tweeting or pressing the square with arrows, and click the star button to mark something as a favorite.
You can also tweet to ask questions or post your own comments. In the top, right of Twitter, you can enter text in the tweet box. Make sure to always include the hashtag after your posting. For example, I need money for college#collegecash. You need to include that hashtag to participate in a specific conversation.
Hosts tend to check their chats regularly to read and respond to posts.
Topics and Guests
Each week, Okun’s hashtag chat focuses on different topics and guests. Every Monday, she posts who will be the guest for Thursday’s show. Then she promotes and advertises the upcoming show to invite guests to propose questions.
“Everyone on Twitter is so nice, too. So you can expect that if you do show up and you are sort of not knowing…there’s always someone to help you along,” said Okun. “So join in. It’s fun!”
College Money Talk
Parents should have the college money talk with their children who are in high school and getting ready to apply for college. Parents should discuss:
- What they have saved
- What they have in their 529
- What they have to spend
“I know it is a really hard conversation,” said Okun. “I’m all about the money talk.”
Having that conversation puts the high schoolers in a good place for life after college because they will need to be fiscally responsible for:
Net vs. Actual Costs
The Cost of Attendance at colleges include:
- Personal expenses
The net costs only include tuition, room, and board. Then you have the additional costs listed above to identify the actual costs.
“Finding a college that is within your budget…needs to be a fiscal fit,” said Okun.
However, some colleges offer scholarships or discounts to help bring down the net costs. This typically happens when students have:
- Good grades
- Good test scores
- Likelihood of financial aid eligibility
“I think it is important for families not to rule out colleges because they think they won’t qualify,” said Okun.
Money Talk Rules
Parents should establish rules with their college-bound children:
- Apply wherever they want, but that does not mean they will be able to go – depends on net costs
- Understand that “No” may be the answer
- Parents need to be open and honest about fiscal means
Parents suppling kids with the latest phone or gaming device is a lot different than providing a $250,000 college education. But a lot of students don’t tend to understand that difference.
What is the plan?
Parents need to have a plan in place when it comes to funding for college. Consider the following:
- How much has been saved
- How much does college cost
“The plan does change,” said Okun. “That’s ok, as long as you have been educated.”
Going to College vs. Not Going to College
Things to consider when deciding whether to go to college or not rests on the return of investment. Will it allow students to:
- Major in something that lands them a job with a good salary
- Earn more money when they attend college
- Be employed, over employed, or under employed
How much money should you borrow?
If your student is going to get a job after college where their starting salary will be about $30,000, then the student should not take out more than $30,000 in college student loans. Then it is left up to the parents whether they want to provide additional funding. Do you want a new car and vacation home, or do you want to help pay for your student’s college education?
Okun encourages parents and students to start paying for loans while still in college. This helps to establish good budgeting skills.
Okun works with various circumstances that families face and seek advice. She utilizes the following process:
- 30-minute strategy session: Focuses on asking lots of questions. What’s your student’s GPA? Where do you live? Where does your student want to go to college? What’s your plan today?
- Tools: Net price calculators, etc.
- Reflect: Parents think about what they have learned and discovered to determine if they need additional help from Okun.
Where and when to start:
College financial planning can start early on – even when students are freshmen or sophomores. Things to consider and do:
- What financial aid offices look at
- Contacting a financial planner
- Applying for scholarships
- Getting good grades and test scores
“Starting early by getting educated is good,” said Okun.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
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Brad is not affiliated with Jodi Okun or College Financial Aid Advisors.
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