8 Tips For Getting College Financial Aid

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On SayCampusLife.com, we’ve been dispensing advice on how to get college aid and are including the following article from Kalman A. Chany, author of Paying For College Without Going Broke to keep the momentum going. Published by Random House/Princeton Review, we’ll have a full review of the book posted to this site next month.

college studentThe following tips can help you in your quest to secure financial aid:

1. Assume you’re eligible — Don’t rule yourself out because of income or academics. And don’t rule out a college because you think that it’s too expensive. The higher the cost, the more aid you may receive.

2. Don’t wait to be accepted to a college to apply for aid. The coffers may be empty by spring.

3. Get application forms as soon as possible. You’ll need the 2009-2010 FAFSA form — online versions are available on New Year’s Day; paper copies are available by calling 1-800-433-3243. You may also need to complete the CSS/PROFILE form, state aid forms, and forms provided by the college.

4. Check the deadlines and be sure to meet each one. Many colleges have different deadlines for different forms. Some may be due in late December, though most are due in the first quarter of the year, January-March.

5. Figure out your “expected family contribution.” Use worksheets in financial aid guidebooks to calculate — before you apply — what the colleges will estimate you can afford to pay. Be sure to get up-to-date information, as formulas can change year to year.

6. Before December 31st, maximize your aid eligibility. Freshmen year aid awards are based in part on income for the year ending December 31st of the student’s senior year in high school. Consider making appropriate adjustments to your assets, debts, and retirement provisions before you apply.

7. Do your income tax forms early. To meet early aid application deadlines, you may need to do a draft version of your 2007 income tax return with estimated numbers. Many schools will require a copy of your actual return in the spring to verify your information.

8. Follow instructions carefully on application forms. Common mistakes which can disqualify your applications are: forgetting to sign them, leaving lines blank, or using the wrong academic year’s version of the forms.

The first semester of college is months away for incoming freshmen, but acting now will hellp you save a bundle of money later and perhaps make a huge difference in where your offspring attend college.

Adv. — If you have already found the college you want to attend, get prepared to apply to that school in November. Otherwise do an online college search to find the schools of interest to you and print out a Summary Aid Map to help you plan your financial aid strategy.

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Categories: Finance