10 Financial Aid Tips for College Students | Paying for College

Given the rising cost of college – state tuition and fees at public national universities rose 211% over the past 20 years – many students and families rely on outside sources to fund their post-secondary education and seek financial tips Support.

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Financial aid can be divided into two categories: performance-based and needs-based.

Universities and colleges distribute performance grants based on academic and talented achievement rather than a family’s household income. University of South Dakota counselors, for example, review ACT scores and high school credentials during the admissions process to determine eligibility, says Lindsay Miller, the school’s interim grant director.

The federal government, the federal states and universities provide needs-based help in the form of grants, scholarships, dual studies and loans. A student’s financial needs are determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For a smaller number of schools, mostly private universities, it may also be necessary to fill out the CSS profile.

Private scholarships are usually the only resource that requires an additional or separate application, says Shannon Vasconcelos, director of college funding at Bright Horizons College Coach.

The process of figuring out how to pay college can be daunting and time consuming, so here are 10 tips from the financial support experts.

1. Make no assumptions about eligibility.

The decision not to apply for a grant can be a mistake, says Vasconcelos.

“There’s a likely chance that you’re actually eligible,” she adds. “Don’t assume you are unskilled because your neighbor, who you believe has about as much money as you, is unskilled. You have no idea what’s in other people’s household finances People going on. “

2. Don’t shop based on sticker price.

It can be tempting to ignore a college because of its high cost. But in almost all cases, the sticker price isn’t what a student will actually pay, says Melissa Yakabouski, director of student admissions at the University of Mary Washington, Virginia.

Families should pay attention to the net cost, which is the sticker price minus grants and scholarships. This can be determined using the net price calculator on most universities’ websites.

A student answers questions about household finances, grade point average, test scores, and extracurricular activities. These answers are used to estimate the amount of scholarships and grants that a college could provide to the student. The financial aid numbers are then deducted from the full cost of participation in order to predict what a family might pay.

3. Avoid paying third parties to find a scholarship.

Many outside grants are available, including through churches, employers, local businesses, and philanthropic organizations. Miller recommends that a student begin research on scholarships one year before the funds are needed.

However, she warns against paying someone to look for scholarships and giving out personal information like social security number. Free resources are available including the College Board, FastWeb.com, and the US News Scholarship Finder.

4. Use the IRS data retrieval tool.

It can be easy to make a mistake with the FAFSA, but using the Internal Revenue Service’s data retrieval tool can reduce filing time and the rate of errors, experts say.

Instead of manual entry, the virtual tool automatically transfers federal tax return information from the IRS to a student’s online FAFSA form.

“Estimating income information or inputting errors in the FAFSA application can make the process difficult when it comes time to provide grants,” Courtney Henderson, director of the University of Oklahoma Student Finance Center, wrote in an email.

Those who have filed a U.S. tax return with the IRS are usually eligible to use the tool, but there are exceptions.

5. Observe deadlines.

The FAFSA opens every October 1, but the federal application deadline does not end until June 30 of the following year. State and college deadlines may be earlier.

Missing a deadline can leave money on the table.

“Generally, the forms are sent one time online to all of your colleges that need them,” said Jeff Levy, co-founder of Big J Educational Consulting in California. “That means that if you submit the FAFSA once to all colleges, you must submit the FAFSA before college with the earliest deadline.”

6. Apply early.

Students should not only meet deadlines, but apply early, as some financial grants are given on a first come, first served basis. Pay attention to priority deadlines, experts advise.

States like Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington have “as soon as possible after October 1st” deadlines because “awards are made until.” the funds are made available ”. are used up, “according to the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC).

“Depending on the state you live in, it may be important (when you apply for submission) as well as the school’s own priority deadlines for the FAFSA and whether they have a separate deadline for the CSS profile,” says Timothy Saulnier, director for financial help at UMW.

7. Check your email regularly.

Upon completion of the FAFSA, a study grant report will typically be sent to the applicant’s email address with an expected family contribution to determine eligibility. Universities can request additional information by email.

“Pay attention to your e-mail so that you can comply with all inquiries,” says Vasconcelos.

8. Look at the displays.

At first glance, a grant package from one college may seem bigger than an offer from another school. But watch out for the ancillary costs.

“You can look at a private school that costs $ 50,000 that will help you, for example, $ 30,000,” Saulnier says. “The outlay is $ 20,000. And then let’s say UMW only gives you $ 11,000, but the cost (to participate) is $ 30,000. For example, the net is $ 19,000. Even if one School gives you a lot more help, it doesn’t have to be a better grant package. ”

9. A school’s first offer is not always the last offer.

The FAFSA requires “previous” year tax information that may not reflect the current income or job status of a student or parent. If the family’s finances have worsened, a student should notify their college’s grant office to explain the change in circumstances and request a re-examination of the grant package known as an appeal.

However, changes to the grant packages are not limited to specific circumstances. For example, a merit scholarship student may try to negotiate a higher offer, says Vasconcelos.

“There’s no real downside to doing it,” she adds. “The worst thing they would do is say ‘no’. Families are often surprised how often they say ‘yes’ and toss them a few thousand more dollars. ”

10. If you have any questions, contact the university’s financial assistance offices.

For more details on specific funding requirements or deadlines, please visit the websites of many colleges. But if the information is still unclear, call the grant office or send an email.

FSAIC also serves as a resource. Questions about federal aid can be answered by e-mail, telephone or web chat.

“It’s never too early to start thinking about paying college,” Miller says. “You really want to learn and take action. The university admissions advisors will be a great place to go to inquire about scholarship opportunities, and the grant bureaus will be helpful throughout the student funding process.”

Are you trying to fund your education? Get tips and more on the US news Pay for college Center.

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