Common Sense Advice for Applying for College Financial Aid

Getting college aid in the dark times of Pres. Bush is getting more and more difficult. With budget slashing taking its toll on money available as well as who is going to be eligible for getting what money is left, it’s of the utmost importance that just the basic rules are followed. Planning ahead and knowing things that should be common wisdom but aren’t are vital.

First, make sure you get the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is a must for any family that is considering the possibility of applying for aid. If your child is still in high school, then his or her guidance counselor should have access to this form or you can go to the FAFSA web site. Be aware that there are deadlines for completing this form and these deadlines are SERIOUS. Don’t fool around.

Speaking of deadlines, don’t wait until you or your child is accepted by a college to begin the aid process. In fact, you may be required to furnish the aid package at some schools before the deadline for admissions. Gather all the information about financial aid that you can, including anything that seems to even remotely qualify you, and immediately begin filling out the paperwork. Better to have sent it in too early and have to go through the process again than to have waited too long and missed out entirely.

Unless you are filling out the forms on the web, it’s vitally important that you take steps to make sure your application arrives and is acceptable. It may sound obvious, but the most important thing is that you sign everywhere you are supposed to sign. Even overlooking one signature can set you back weeks. Fill out everything accurately and truthfully. Then go over it again and make sure you didn’t miss anything. Then make copies of it and go over the copies. And then make sure you signed it!

Once you’re sure there are no mistakes and that everything is signed, don’t just slide it into an envelope and send it off. Send the documents via registered mail, return receipt requested. You want to make absolutely certain that the application got to where it was supposed to go.

Do you taxes early. Get your tax form in to the government and make sure it’s accurate. Financial aid will be based on your tax information and you want to make sure that information is up to date. This is so important that if you have to, go ahead and estimate your figures now, send it in and then revise your figures later. It’s a competitive world and there is less money available now than in the past so you have to do everything you can to give yourself a leg up. Just make sure that your estimate reflects reality. You don’t want to underestimate or overestimate by too much. Some colleges will actually withhold sending you your final financial aid package until they receive your tax return information so make sure they get it as soon as possible.

Finally, if you’re child is fortunate enough to receive multiple acceptances, don’t be afraid to go back to each of the colleges and try to negotiate a better deal. Colleges are hungering for academic standouts and are more than willing to work with you to get you a better deal if they think they’ve got a chance at winning a top recruit. Just be aware that you will have to provide proof that your child is getting other top notch offers.

These are just a few basic things you should know. The actual process of applying for aid is complex and it’s doubtful that anyone knows exactly what goes into the process for every student at every school. But if you’re prepared with secrets of the basics, you can get a step up on getting the best financial aid possible for your child.

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