Don’t be afraid to read between the lines on financial aid reward letters. It’s not uncommon for “expensive” private colleges to offer better financial aid packages than state schools. Examine the gap (if there is one) between the financial aid package and the cost of attendance for each school to see how well the package meets your need. Break down how much money is coming from grants, federal loans, scholarships, and work-study. Grants and scholarships don’t have to be paid back. Work-study money must be earned through part time employment during the school year and students must pay taxes on it. Loans need to be paid back and different families can take on different amounts of debt. Remember – federal loans are less expensive and have more benefits than private loans.
Many parents assume that their child must have good grades to qualify for grants and scholarships. This is inaccurate. Most colleges award a majority of their grants based on financial need, not merit. Merit scholarships comprise less than 2% of the total “pot.” Although it’s fun to talk about merit scholarships, the big money - more than 98% - is in the need-based financial aid system.
How to Get the Best Financial Aid Package for College
How to Get the BestFinancial Aid Package for College CollegeWeekLive StudentAdvisor.com Dean Tsouvalas, Editor-in-Chief
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1. Fill out the FAFSA!It all starts with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
53% of eligible families do notbother applying for aid throughthe FAFSA leaving millions on thetable.
The FAFSA determinesyour eligibility forfinancial aid such asgrants and federalstudent loans.Most need-based scholarships are based on your FAFSA score.
2. Common FAFSA Mistakes (and how to avoid them)
Incorrect Double andSocialSecurity or triple checkdriver’s theselicense numbers.number.
Leaving spacesblank.Write “0” or NA when applicable.
Using decimalpoints orcommas. Always round to the nearest dollar!
Other common FAFSA mistakes…Not sending the FAFSA to every school you’ve applied to. You can include up to 10 colleges per FAFSA. You will need each college’s Federal School Code.Forgetting to sign and date. If you’re filling out the paper FAFSA be sure to sign it. If you’re filing electronically, be sure to obtain your PIN from www.pin.ed.gov. Your PIN is your electronic signature and will always be assigned to you only.Waiting to file FAFSA until you submit the most recent income tax return.You can estimate your taxes.
3. On the day you file, make sure your parent has as little cash in checking,savings and other cash-equivalents as possible.
4. Students:Always file a taxreturn, even ifyou aren’tmaking anymoney.
6. Remember: grades have little to do with financial aid awards.
2012-2013 FAFSA Deadlines• Federal Deadline:Online applications must be submitted by midnight Central Time, June 30, 2013.Any corrections or updates must be submitted by midnight Central Time, September 15, 2013.• State Deadlines:Each state has a different deadline. See the list2012 - 2013 FAFSA Deadlines