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Navigating the Crossroads of College Financial Aid: Need-Based vs. Non-Need-Based Approaches

By 
Julie Bray
I am Julie Bray, CFP®, a dynamic and accomplished financial professional, currently serving as the President and Wealth Manager at GW Financial, Inc. My journey in the world of finance began in December 2010 when I joined Glenn Woody Financial Consultants, Inc. (GWFC). Eager to deepen my expertise, I concurrently pursued the coursework required to sit for the prestigious CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, a goal I achieved in early 2012. Having demonstrated my commitment and aptitude, Glenn and I initiated succession planning, a strategic move that saw me acquire GWFC in June 2014. Since then, I have played a pivotal role in the firm's growth and success. I not only continue to provide dedicated service to the firm's clients but also oversee the day-to-day management and lead the Investment Advisory Panel. Prior to my role at GWFC, I gained valuable experience at Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), where I specialized in the municipal bond arena, catering to the unique needs of ultra-high net worth families and clients. My journey also included a significant stint at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York, where I served as a Municipal Bond Trader, Portfolio Manager, and Assistant Vice President. My educational foundation is solid, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Complementing my academic achievements, I completed my Certificate in Financial Planning through the University of California, Irvine. Beyond my professional pursuits, I find joy and fulfillment in my family life with my husband Paul, residing in the vibrant community of Reno, Nevada, alongside our three children and two dogs. A passionate advocate for work/life balance, we continually embark on new adventures, whether it's navigating the challenges of parenthood, snowboarding at Mt. Rose, snorkeling in Hawaii, or visiting family in England. As a family, we share a love for golf and pickleball, demonstrating that the pursuit of financial success is harmoniously balanced with the pursuit of a fulfilling and active family life. My commitment to helping families plan for college, retirement, and wealth transfer is not only a professional duty but a personal philosophy reflected in my own approach to life and family.

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Funding our children’s college education is a pivotal milestone in a parent’s life.

Hello Discerning Parents and Future Graduates,

Funding our children’s college education is a pivotal milestone in a parent’s life. There are many variables to consider – such as need-based and non-need-based financial aid – to determine what best supports our children’s academic journeys.

Understanding Need-Based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid is awarded based on the financial circumstances of a student’s family. It aims to make higher education accessible to students who might not afford it otherwise. This type of aid is crucial for families with significant financial constraints and is calculated based on the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is determined by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Exploring Non-Need-Based Financial Aid

On the flip side, non-need-based financial aid, often known as merit-based aid, rewards students for their academic achievements, athletic skills, artistic talents, or other specific accomplishments. This aid is not influenced by family income and provides an avenue for students to be recognized for their individual talents.

Optimizing Need-Based Aid

  • File the FAFSA early to ensure you submit the FAFSA as soon as it’s available to take advantage of early allocations of funds.
  • Complete the CSS Profile if required by some schools to determine eligibility for non-federal aid.
  • Research schools that meet a high percentage of demonstrated financial need.
  • Minimize taxable income to lower your EFC and increase your eligibility for aid.
  • Keep your financial information up to date and report any significant changes in your family’s financial status.

Maximizing Non-Need-Based Aid

  • Academic Excellence: Maintain high grades and standardized test scores.
  • Develop a Strong Portfolio: Showcase your talents through a well-crafted portfolio or audition tapes.
  • Apply Widely: Don’t limit your applications; apply for both local and national scholarships.
  • Engage in Extracurriculars: Demonstrate leadership and initiative through diverse activities.
  • Network: Utilize recommendations from mentors to bolster your applications.

As you enjoy the lingering glow of fireworks and the spirit of freedom, remember that choosing the right financial aid strategy can liberate your family from unnecessary financial stress. Whether it’s need-based or non-need-based aid, the right approach depends on your financial situation and your child’s unique strengths.

Are you ready to illuminate the path to your child’s educational and financial independence? Schedule a Getting Acquainted Call with me today. Together, we’ll tailor a plan that not only meets but exceeds your aspirations. Secure your spot now, and let’s turn these planning sparks into a brilliant future.

Warm regards,
Julie Bray
Your Family’s College and Retirement Champion
GW Financial, Inc.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by GW Financial, Inc. to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2023 GW Financial, Inc.

To make Wealthtender free for readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Read our editorial policy and terms of service to learn more. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
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