Act Now To Maximize Your Financial Aid

Let me begin by making an important distinction.  Financial aid is based on NEED; it does not include talent based awards or scholarships.  Also, the most common form of financial aid is student loans, which must be repaid. But with the rising costs of college education, even upper-middle class families find themselves qualifying for some type of aid. Families who begin the process early have a greater chance of receiving grants and other awards which will not require repayment.  “Free money”, aid that does not involve repayment, is awarded first which is why you want to be in the front of the line when the process begins. Your place in line is determined by when you complete the required financial aid documents.  Your first step is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) located at  You can submit your FAFSA beginning January 1 of your student’s senior year. I encourage seniors and their parents to start the process early, so they will be able to submit their FAFSA on January 1.  To complete the FAFSA, you need a PIN for the student and one parent; you can obtain your PINs now.  Additionally, you will need your 2011 tax information. This is where many people unnecessarily delay their student aid applications.  I won’t have my 2011 taxes done and ready to file on January 1, 2012.  But I can complete my FAFSA application using estimated figures.  Once, I complete my taxes, I can submit a correction to my FAFSA with the exact numbers. Many families will have similar financial situations from one year to the next and could easily use their 2010 1040 form to complete the FAFSA questionnaire.  However, if you have a significantly higher or lower income or drastically different investment picture, you may need to begin making estimates now.  You can print a sample FAFSA worksheet, so you know exactly what financial information is required. Once you submit FAFSA data, you will receive your EFC (Expected Family Contribution), the amount your family is expected to pay towards college before any aid is awarded.  If you are curious about that figure, I encourage you to use any of the financial aid calculators available online.  There is one of the FAFSA site: Your EFC will be sent to each college or university you specify and each institution will begin to calculate your financial aid offer.  As of November 1, all schools are required to have a “net price calculator” on their website.  Look into and compare the costs at different schools. By starting the process early, you will be able to avoid last minute mistakes and take advantage of types of aid, such as grants, which are exhausted before every student’s need is fully met.]]>

Comments (2)

  • Thank you for this! With the increasing tuition fees in American universities, it is not surprising that high school students are being deterred from continuing their education or are being lured by the promise of lower fees in other countries. This does not have to be the case though as the number of scholarships being offered in the United States are increasing as well. Interested students are advised to visit to check the list of all scholarships and see which are applicable to them, and whose requirements they meet.

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