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  Understanding the Financial Aid Process  Menu | Next » 
   

Financial aid is available as grants, scholarships, student loans and work-study. The federal and state government, colleges and universities, and private and community-based organizations are all major sources of finding aid. Every step you take can really pay off to help with college expenses.


  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    As soon as possible after January 1st. Information provided on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education. Your EFC is an index used by your school to create your financial aid package.   Also check with your financial aid office to see if any other forms are required, and return them all before your college's priority filing date.
     

  • Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)
    The SAR summarizes the information you reported on the FAFSA and includes your EFC. Follow the directions to make any necessary corrections.
     

  • Explore and exhaust all avenues for scholarships and grants
    This is gift assistance that you are not required to pay back.

  • Read your financial aid award package information carefully
    Complete any follow-up requests from the financial aid office as soon as possible. Procrastination may cost you money in the long run.

  • If you need a student loan
    First, exhaust all government and institutional loan programs because these usually, but not always, have the most favorable loan terms. Alternative financing is available through private sources. Compared with federal student loans, you may be charged higher interest rates and fees. The student loan terms will vary from one lender's student loan product to another. You can save money by picking a lender that offers the best package of loan terms. For more detailed advice, please visit our section on private loans.

  • Contact the financial aid office
    If your family experiences special or unanticipated financial circumstances not reflected in your FAFSA information your school may be able to help. If you have a documented financial hardship such as medical bills, loss of income or change in the family structure which shows a significant decrease in your financial resources the school may modify your financial aid package.
     

  • Consumer choices resulting in high debt are not considered
    Credit cards, car payments, mortgages and other consumer debt are not considered on the FAFSA or viewed as a special circumstance.

  • The financial aid you receive may be different from year to year
    Your situation may change (e.g. income, family information, enrollment and marital status) or funding levels and laws may impact financial aid programs. 
     

  • Consider working while in school
    If you are eligible, Federal Work-Study is a great option to earn money and reduce your loan needs. Because the Federal Work-Study income is part of your financial aid award, that money will not be included as an asset when you file the FAFSA for the following academic year.

  • If you are a professional working full-time
    Check with your employer to see if it offers tuition reimbursement or other assistance.

  • If you are planning to take classes during the summer
    You may be able to apply for summer financial assistance to cover summer studies. Check with the financial aid office in February for summer aid information instructions. Be on time! Summer aid sources can be limited.

 
 

Checklist of Free Sources
of Financial Aid Information

 
     
Checkmark   Your Financial Aid Office
Checkmark   U.S. Department of Education
Checkmark   Other federal agencies (including the military, if appropriate)
Checkmark   State education agencies
Checkmark   Reference section of your school or public library
Checkmark   Internet Searches
Checkmark   Foundations, religious organizations, community organizations, local businesses, and civic groups
Checkmark   Organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest
Checkmark   Your employer or your parents' employers
Checkmark   Free scholarship search services

 

  

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