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Top 10 Financial Aid Tips

It isn’t easy navigating the world of financial aid, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. There are ways, however, to feel more comfortable when you’re looking for ways to finance your college career. Spend as much time as you did applying to colleges at applying for financial aid, because your work isn’t over once you get that acceptance letter from the college of your choice, and you’ll find the time well spent when you’re not worried about how that first tuition payment is going to get paid.

See our list of top 10 financial aid tips below to feel more prepared about starting – and finishing – the process of successfully applying for financial aid. Knowing what’s expected of you will help you avoid the common mistakes that could prevent you from landing the most free funding possible, so if you’re still nervous about filing your financial aid application and investigating aid options at your intended college, do your research. Talk to your financial aid administrator or browse through our site for more information about paying and finding money for college.

  1. Prioritize your efforts, beginning with the federal government. Explore the private sector for additional financial aid programs, and visit websites like Scholarships.com to locate outside financial aid that you may be eligible for.
  2. Contact each school that you’re interested in to explore their financial aid possibilities. Write to the school's financial aid office as soon as you apply for admission to learn of the grant and scholarship opportunities available to you. Applying for financial aid should not affect your chances of being accepted.
  3. Be prepared. Students and parents should file their income tax returns early, because the information from income tax forms will be needed when filing the FAFSA.
  4. Get to know your financial aid administrator, because they’ll be an important resource for you not only while you’re applying for financial aid, but when you have questions that will inevitably arise later on in the year.
  5. Submit a FAFSA even if you think you will not qualify for federal aid. Being rejected for federal aid is sometimes a prerequisite for private awards. Some schools require that you fill out their own application.
  6. Apply for aid as early as possible. Deadlines vary, but your FAFSA can be sent any time after January 1st. An early application can help you get the best financial aid package possible, and give you enough time to seek out outside sources of financial aid if you’re offered less funding than you had hoped for.
  7. Take advantage of tuition prepayment discounts if you’re able. Many colleges offer up to a 10-percent discount for early payment.
  8. Money given to you from grandparents for higher education may avoid gift tax liability if it is paid in your name directly to your intended college
  9. Investigate company-sponsored tuition plans. Many employers will invest in the education of their employees or children of employees, although you may be indebted to that company in the form of years of employment there post-graduation, so be sure you do your research.
  10. Apply for financial aid each year you are in school. Even if you receive aid during one year, you must reapply to get it for the next year. File a renewal FAFSA to reapply for financial aid and save time. Your financial aid administrator will be able to help you with this, or find the information on the federal government’s FAFSA website.

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