The price of higher education is continuing to rise, but the good news is most students don’t come up with the money on their own. A whopping 66 percent of undergraduate students received some type of financial aid in 2007-08, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Seeking financial aid can be a little intimidating, but here we have compiled five simple steps to help you as you begin to navigate the sometimes confusing world of financial aid.
- Get organized. Once you have selected a college, find out about its financial aid procedures and deadlines. Then make sure you have all of your necessary documents together, along with income information from your parents if you are still a dependent. Have your Social Security number, driver’s license, tax return, and bank and investment records at the ready as you prepare to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and/or apply for any other aid.
- Complete your FAFSA. The FAFSA is how the government determines what federal loans and grants you are eligible for. The application is long and detailed, but don’t let that scare you. You can save your FAFSA halfway through and return to it again using your PIN if you are missing any necessary information. It’s also helpful to fill out a FAFSA on the Web worksheet , to print out and get all of your mess-ups out of the way. Then you can simply copy its information onto your FAFSA.
- Ask your college about institutional aid. Most public and private universities provide various scholarships and fellowships to undergraduates to help them pay for all or part of tuition and fees.
- Make time to search for grants and scholarships. Good places to start are Fastweb.com (a website that connects students to scholarships) and College Board’s scholarship search. These sites eliminate the unhelpful ones that do not apply to you and generate a solid list of potentials, saving you a lot of time and headaches.
- Make time to complete scholarship "tasks." Applying for scholarships is the easy part. It’s trickier doing some of the tasks these scholarships require, like reading long books, writing essays, or even creating a prom dress out of duct tape!
- Think local for scholarships. Many philanthropic organizations in your community, such as the Lions Club and Rotary Club, offer college scholarships as well.
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