Seniors: Apply, apply, apply… for financial aid!

The single biggest mistake families make in the college application process is failing to apply for financial aid. So, apply! Even if you think you won't qualify, apply. You may be pleasantly surprised. And sometimes you need to apply for federal aid to receive state aid or merit scholarships.

How do you apply? The FAFSA is required for any student seeking federal and state financial aid, including grants and loans at all colleges in the country.   It can seem complicated, but there is help available -- and it's free.  One of the best resources is College Goal Sunday, an information program that brings together financial aid professionals from colleges and universities along with other volunteers to assist college-bound students and their families complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  Calendars for their national programs, as well as state-by-state events can be found at their website here.

The FAFSA website is also a great resource. You can directly check on your federal and state deadlines for filing the FAFSA here. But deadlines for the colleges can vary. Check with each college to which you are applying to determine their deadline and their definition of that application deadline - whether it is the date they receive your FAFSA, or the date your FAFSA is processed.

You will see many offers of help in completing the FAFSA in the mail, on the web and in the media. Never pay a fee to locate financial aid information. And avoid any organization or service that either guarantees a reward or charges a fee for completing the FAFSA. Information on legitimate financial aid is easily available at no cost at the following sites:

• FAFSA.gov

• The U.S. Department of Education at studentaid.ed.gov

• College Goal Sunday at collegegoalsundayusa.org

• The College Board at collegeboard.org

• Fastweb.com at fastweb.com

• FinAid at finaid.org

 

For more information about FAFSA and financial aid, including scholarships, loans, and  comparing financial aid awards, see Chapter 16, "Financial Aid," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

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