College Parents: Don’t Leave Money on the Table!

07/12/23 / Anita Drentlaw, CPA, president & CEO

My daughter Kayla will be starting her second year at the University of St. Thomas in September. With her first year under her belt, our family knows what to budget – and borrow – to pay for her college. 

If you have a teen who will head off to college soon, you may be intimidated by what lies ahead. College visits, applications and financing are all part of the process. 

Kayla visited seven schools during her junior year and applied to four of those schools the summer before her senior year. Then, we waited for acceptances and word on potential merit scholarships. Acceptance letters came in and finally the one she was waiting for … the University of St. Thomas! A third-generation Tommie! 

With that decision made, our family had more definitive information to act on. We knew roughly how much tuition, room and board would cost and the value of her merit scholarship. Next, we needed to know our “Expected Family Contribution” – the amount we’d have to finance personally. 

We completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) to find out what federal and state grants, additional scholarships, work study and federally subsidized student loans we may qualify for. We filled the FASFA out early because we knew the sooner we applied, the more aid that may be available to us. The FASFA is released in October for the following school year, with a submission deadline of June 30.

Completing the FASFA might seem daunting. I’m a CPA, so I wasn’t scared. What does scare me is knowing some families never complete the FASFA. According to College Ave Student Loans, “Only 57 percent of high school seniors in the class of 2019 completed the FAFSA; those who skipped it were ineligible to receive federal aid, such as grants, work-study programs, and even federal student loans. Students could even miss out on school-offered scholarships since many colleges use the FAFSA to determine your aid.”

It’s crazy to me that families are missing out on “free” money!

There are a lot of helpful articles about the FASFA and the financial aid process on the College Ave website ( and on the website, where you can access the FASFA itself. also has additional resources, such as college prep checklists based on your student’s current grade and a link to YouTube videos on various college-prep topics.  

While you’re on the College Ave website, dig around to learn the ins and outs of college financing, the difference between private student loans, parent loans and loans offered by the government. There are also handy calculators and timelines to inform your decisions. 
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.