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.