Financial Aid 101

Planning & Saving
on May 27, 2013

College is an expensive venture whether someone is financed by his or her parents for school or whether reliance on financial aid is required. Getting financial aid handled in the right way requires acting early and making sure that applications are sent in even before an acceptance letter comes in the mail. By starting the financial aid process early, a student will be able to greet their first year of college without worry of paying for tuition.

Completing the FAFSA Form

The first step in the financial aid process is sending in a FAFSA form to the government. This “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” asks a lot of questions about a student’s financial status and the financial health of his or her family.

The most important facet of this form is that it’s not only good for ensuring a student may obtain federal student loans. It’s also the form required for things like federal and state grants and work-study programs that are subsidized by the government.

Locate School Codes

Each school has a unique code that identifies the establishment for the government, and when filling out the form, it’s vital to make sure that all of the schools to which a student might apply are included on the form. Even if a student doesn’t attend a specific school and is not sure where he or she might attend, it’s important to include codes for all potential schools.

Know the Deadlines

Each year FAFSA forms must be sent out by a certain date to ensure that a student will be able to obtain financial aid. January 1 is the earliest a form may be sent out for the next school year, and the priority deadline for new freshman is March 1. Returning students have until April 15 to get their forms sent in to the government.

One of the main reasons why a student will want to hit that deadline is because some of the grants and scholarships aren’t available later in the year. By getting applications in as soon as possible, a student has the best chance for saving money and getting financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid.

Applying for Further Aid or Award Revision

After all the applications are made, a letter will come in the mail that will offer details on the financial aid offered to the student for that year. Sometimes the amount of money offered is less than a student would need, but occasionally modifications may be requested for loan amounts and financial aid decisions. Occasionally a student might enjoy saving money on a portion of the tuition costs by paying some tuition costs up front instead of through loans. A college can easily arrange these circumstances.

Although such reviews may not always end favorably, it’s necessary that students realize that the first financial aid letter isn’t necessarily the final offer for the year. It’s also a good idea to reevaluate that letter for reasons of additional scholarships or private loan applications. Many students must obtain private loans to supplement their federal financial aid because school has gotten so incredibly expensive in the past few decades.

Additional Documentation from Schools

There are often other types of financial aid available directly through the university to which a person has decided to attend, and this is another reason why getting those forms in on time is critical. The moment a new student knows where he or she might be headed for their first year of college, it’s important to get the ball rolling on potential grants or scholarships that would come directly from the school itself.

Educating one’s self on the application process for financial aid will always result in the best opportunity to get the proper funding for college. Whether a student gets loans, grants, or scholarships, all financial aid starts with the FAFSA application and close attention paid during the approval process.

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