By this time, you are probably dipping your toes into the pond of college applications, thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there. Before you plunge into the thick of it, it’s necessary to find out how much financial aid you’ll receive from each school. Here are 5 pieces of advice to think about during the FAFSA/financial aid process.
Read up on the information relevant to you on the student federal aid website. We all have different family and financial situations, so filing for financial aid is not a one-size-fits-all deal. The student federal aid website—studentaid.ed.gov— is jam-packed with all sorts of helpful links and FAQ sections that can help you determine what kind of aid is right for you and how to proceed to get the aid you need.
Figure out all the possible ways you can lower the cost of your education. There are plenty of ways to do this. The easiest and most common way to lower the cost would be to apply for as many scholarship applications as you are eligible for. There are websites like fastweb.com that specialize in connecting students to countless scholarships, and it’s very likely that you can get a good scholarship directly from your future school. There are also many different criteria that can give you a tuition discount; this varies from school-to-school. Remember, you can make the best of your education no matter where you go. Think about the future and what kinds of loans you may have to pay off!
Talk to someone from the financial aid office of the schools you are interested in. Believe it or not, there are people who have careers as financial aid counselors; they have a vast array of knowledge about the financial aid process and are trained to help students deal with it, step by stressful step. Take advantage of any help you can get from the financial aid office of the schools you are looking in to and don’t be afraid to ask questions—you definitely shouldn’t feel embarrassed about a lack of knowledge of the financial aid process!
Stay on top of all deadlines. The most counterproductive thing you can do is actually to not do anything. Make sure you are aware of any and all deadlines—that includes scholarship applications, school FAFSA deadlines, and anything else pertaining to financial aid. Your life will be much easier if you write out a list of deadlines, or just write them down on a calendar and keep track of upcoming due dates.
Communicate with parents or guardians throughout the process. The bulk of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of parents or guardians if filing under their tax information. Make sure you keep them updated on all deadlines, and it’s probably best to accompany them while they fill out the FAFSA information; there’s a section that needs to be filled out by you, the student. If you’re an independent, there is a wealth of information out there to help you through the process on your own!
No matter what, keep in mind that FAFSA—as tedious a process as it is— can be a vital part of the college preparatory process, so do your best to keep on top of it and take it seriously. Remember, don’t let anything, financial or otherwise, get between you and fulfilling your dreams; if that includes college, then all the better!