Financial Aid Do's and Don'ts

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

Last Updated: Feb 3, 2012

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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