Financial Aid Do's and Don'ts

Assistant Vice President for International Enrollment Management, State University of New York, Plattsburgh

No one said applying for financial aid was easy, but you can make the process more manageable by starting strong--and following these tips.

  • Do start researching as early as possible. Gathering information and sending forms may take more time than you expect. Use e-mail for the most efficient communication.
  • Do pay close attention to all instructions and the associated deadlines for filing forms. Keep lists or make notes on a calendar.
  • Don’t assume that one college or university will need the same information as the next.
  • Don’t only consider the largest and best-known universities in your state or even nationally. Many smaller, lesser-known institutions have funding available and offer a high-quality education.
  • Do contact colleges and universities and ask questions.
  • Do specify if you have unusual expenses or circumstances that have changed your family’s financial situation in the past year.
  • Do expect to pay your share. Students and families are generally expected to pay as much of the educational cost as they are able to. Financial aid can be seen as a partnership among parents, students, and the institution. Each will contribute a part to help the student cover the total cost of education.
  • Do remember that tuition is not the only expense; you will have to provide for room and board and possibly other fees like health insurance.
  • Don’t rely on individuals and companies that offer to find scholarships for a fee or offer you a “guaranteed” scholarship if you provide a credit card number or other personal information. These are likely scams and should be avoided.

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