How to Apply for Financial Aid

Three Parts:Gathering InformationFilling out the FAFSAGoing Further

Paying for education is a reality of life, and not many can handle the sometimes immense costs of tuition out of pocket. Thankfully, a variety of solutions exist to address the question of school fees. From book vouchers to full scholarships and more, financial aid is a valuable resource when it comes time to deal with the bursar. However, a few steps must be taken first. Gathering the necessary financial data, providing it to the government for evaluation and following through to make sure everything is applied can take time and effort. The educational advantages, though, are well worth it. Read on to learn more about the application process.

Part 1
Gathering Information

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    Determine whether you can file as an independent or as part of your family unit.
    • Decide carefully. Independent students often receive more advantageous aid packages, but are expected to handle all fees by themselves and must reside alone.
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    • If you are a dependent and your parents are separated or divorced, use the parent who provides the primary residence and support; the other parent's information is not relevant.
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    Make sure that all relevant information is documented and in order.
    • You will need documentation of things like your parents' household income, education level and profession, house value and any investments, along with personal income and assets. [1]
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    • If possible, have all income taxes completed by the time application season rolls around; this will provide a much more accurate and up-to-date aid evaluation.
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    Double-check all deadlines and make sure to have the information together well before the form's due date.
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    Narrow down potential colleges by researching their typical aid packages and what would be feasible with or without financial assistance.

Part 2
Filling out the FAFSA

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    Begin filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1st of the year the aid is to be deployed. Log in to http://www.fafsa.gov to get the process started. [2]
    • If you are unable to complete the FAFSA online, it is available as a paper form you can mail or as a PDF you can submit by email in both English and Spanish.
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    • Completing the FAFSA online requires a PIN, or personal identification number. This number takes a few days to be deployed, so don't put off applying until the last minute. [1]
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    Answer all questions on the FAFSA. Be as accurate and honest as possible with regard to the facts and figures, as these will be checked before payment is disbursed.
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    List the colleges that should receive these results. Up to 10 colleges can be included in the initial FAFSA application, and more can be added for a small fee. [1]
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    Sign the FAFSA with a personal PIN if filing online. If filing a paper version, sign and mail in the signature page.
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    Wait for the SAR (Student Aid Report) to come in the mail. This document, in addition to the individual colleges' responses, will provide a comprehensive overview of the financial aid situation to be had at each. [1]

Part 3
Going Further

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    Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE if any of your chosen colleges requires it in addition to the FAFSA.
    • Note that while the CSS PROFILE can be completed early, in the fall prior to the year for which aid is being requested, it requires a submission fee of between $5 and $18 per school.
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    • The CSS PROFILE evaluates students for non-federal financial aid, so it can be very useful for discovering scholarship programs if your parents are over the income brackets where federal programs offer need-based aid. [3]
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    Research scholarships that are specific to the schools you are applying to or to your student profile.
    • Possible things that can convey scholarship eligibility are athletic endeavors, public service or charitable activities, racial or ethnic background, aptitude for a specific subject, or personal hobbies.
    • Make sure applications and essays for these scholarships are submitted well in advance of the due date, as the competition can be fierce.
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    When the aid package has been determined, speak with the bursar at each school.
    • Colleges will often be flexible with students on a case by case basis, particularly individuals that have a sincere desire to attend the institution but can't quite meet tuition.
    • The professionals at the bursar's office are there to help you. Make your case clearly and succinctly, but don't beg.
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Tips

  • While need-based financial aid can be a help, scholarships and grants can also make up an enormous chunk of tuition, book and living expenses.
  • For those looking to maximize their potential for college money, making excellent grades, diversifying extracurricular activities and cultivating great study habits are a surefire way to improve both student profile and scholarship eligibility.


Article Info

Categories: Budgeting and Financial Aid for College