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Top 10 Financial Aid Tips

Navigating financial aid is not easy, especially if you’re filing for the first time. Spend as much time applying for financial aid as you did applying to college. Budgeting does not end with your acceptance letter. Doing research on the financial aid process will reduce the stress of your first tuition payment.

See our list of top 10 financial aid tips to prepare for the financial aid application process. Also research financial aid options at your intended college. Understanding the process will help you avoid common mistakes that affect your eligibility for funding. Talk to your financial aid administrator or browse through our site for more information about finding money for college.

  1. Prioritize your research. Start with the federal government, then explore the private sector for more financial aid programs. Visit websites like Scholarships.com to find m financial aid you qualify for.
  2. Contact each school you’re interested in and ask about their grant and scholarship opportunities. Do this as soon as you apply for admission. Applying for financial aid does not affect your chances of being accepted.
  3. Be prepared. File income tax returns early, because that information is needed for the FAFSA.
  4. Get to know your financial aid administrator, because they are able to answer any questions you have about the financial aid process, campus-based scholarships and grants, and reapplying for financial aid when that time comes.
  5. Submit the FAFSA because that is the only way you can qualify for federal aid. Remember, being rejected for federal aid does not make you ineligible for private awards. Also, be aware that some schools have their own financial aid applications.
  6. Apply early. Deadlines vary for each state and college, but the FAFSA can be sent any time after January 1st. Applying early will result in a better financial aid package, and leave time to apply for other scholarships and grants.
  7. Take advantage of pre-paid tuition discounts. Many colleges offer up to 10% off for early payment.
  8. If you receive a gift towards higher education, have the giver make payment in your name directly to the college to avoid gift tax liability.
  9. Investigate company-sponsored tuition plans. Some employers invest in their employees’ education and/or the children of employees’ education. Companies who offer funding for education often require recipients of the award to continue to work for the company after graduation, so do your research.
  10. Apply for financial aid each year you are in school. You must reapply to continue to get funding. File a renewal FAFSA to reapply for financial aid and save time. Ask your financial aid administrator for help, or find the information on the FAFSA website.

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Photo courtesy of Rice University

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Last Reviewed: September 2018