How can I best support my child in college?

TOPS Scholars sometimes face unique obstacles as first-generation college students. The first thing anyone can do is support their students in making the tough decisions they will be faced with in their path through college-deciding on a college, picking a major, and make major life decisions that can be confusing and challenging. Help your student by talking with them about school, and how they are doing. Encourage your child to develop strong study habits and dedicate the necessary amount of time to studying in order to succeed. Most of all, demonstrate your interest in your student’s success as they earn their college degree!

How much should my child be studying in college?

College students should be studying a minimum of 2 hours per 1 college credit they are enrolled in. For a student enrolled full time (12-15 credits), this means a minimum of about 30 hours per week should be spent on schoolwork.

Students can utilize resources in their school’s libraries such as tutoring, books, and private study rooms, as well as computers and electronic devices to support their study habits.

What is the FAFSA? Does my student have to do this?

All students who are US citizens or eligible non-citizens and thus eligible for federal student aid should fill out the FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA each year will allow your student to be eligible for financial aid. Even if your family’s EFC (expected family contribution) is too high to qualify for any federal aid, many colleges will require a FAFSA from a student for scholarship eligibility as well, even if the scholarships are not based on financial need.

If a parent does not have a social security number, but their child is a US citizen with a social security number (not a DACA student), the child can still receive federal financial aid. When prompted to provide parental information, the child can insert all 0’s for the social security number.

Students who are not eligible to fill out the FAFSA because they are not US citizens or eligible non-citizens should work with their college to see whether scholarships are offered for undocumented and DACA students.

If I will not be supporting my child financially, why do I need to provide my financial information?

Filling out the FAFSA does not in any way require a parent to support their child financially in college. However, until a child reaches 24 years of age, they are considered “dependent” for the purposes of filling out the FAFSA and financial aid awards. The federal government will determine how much financial support they can provide to each student based on both the student and parent financial information. In the case of certain circumstances, such as a child who does not have contact with parents, a child in foster care, etc, exceptions may be made.

If my child is not getting enough financial aid to pay for college, what options do we have?

Students should first rely on any scholarships, grants, and other money that doesn’t need to be repaid to pay for college. Oftentimes, this will not cover a students full cost of attendance at their university. However, there are options such as federal direct loans, parent PLUS loans, and private loans that could be borrowed to cover some of the gap in funding. Many TOPS students work part-time while in college and over the summer to pay a portion of their costs as well. Visit our financial aid pages to learn more!

Questions? Contact the TOPS College Success Team: