ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Fall is once again upon us and the time when high school seniors begin the process of applying for both college and financial assistance.

Getting into a good college is hard enough on its own but finding ways to pay for it can be just as tough for applicants and their families. Justin Duncombe, a financial advisor and author of College Bound Strategies, says step one is apply for financial aid. He explains many might not even apply out of fear that they make too much money or will not get any aid.

“The number one thing that you want to remember in terms of where the money comes from is: need-based, merit-based, and special ability,” said Duncombe.

He explains how families need to be careful with applications and understand what is and what is not required.

“Often times they put down their retirement accounts, a home value, a rental property, something that isn’t suppose to count," said Duncombe. "And every times someone does that, it costs them 10’s of thousands of dollars in financial aid.”

Duncombe also suggests that students need to figure out what the projected total net cost of the education will be and most colleges have calculators for that on their website. He also tells high schoolers to pick a degree which in return, will be worth that cost.

“What is the potential for me to study these things at schools that will help me get a job that will allow me to pay off those things,” said Duncombe in regards to that thought process.

Duncombe says he often educates lower-income families on how they can pay similar costs at some private colleges as they would at community colleges. He adds that most of the time, lower-income families can qualify for a no-cost option at community colleges.

"For the disadvantaged families, it's already free and for private schools, they provide so much assistance that it also makes private schools free but not a lot of school districts make this information known," revealed Duncombe. "So we have a GoFundMe that raises money to donate my book to disadvantaged families --  that way they have a guidebook."

Duncombe says his book, College Bound Strategies, is the guide for every student and family trying to get a higher education. The GoFundMe for College Bound Strategies was started to help disadvantaged students get the information they need to help decide on, apply to, and afford a higher education by raising money, buying, and donating the book to disadvantaged students in school districts around the country. 

Dumcombe says the College Bound Strategies GoFundMe will donate the next $250,000 (or more if raised over the next 6 weeks) of donations to Atlanta area schools and districts.

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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