Financial Aid 101 – 5 Tips to Get Government Money for School

With more and more people applying for college entrance each year and university budgets stretched to the max in this economy, not only are students being turned away, but the rising prices of admission are causing many to be excluded because they simply can’t afford to attend.

However, the government has a program in place to help students seeking a little financial to complete their dreams of earning a college degree.  By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) you may be able to secure funding from both the government and your college of choice.

Here are a few tips to help you get in the money:

  1. Understand FAFSA.  Although the paperwork may look complex, it’s actually not too difficult to plug in the relevant information and be on your way to getting the monetary help you need to attend college.

    Financial Aid tips for college students

    However, there are a few things you should know going into the process. The first is that you cannot lie on your forms; it is fraud and it’s a federal offense.  You will get caught because your application is checked against IRS records.

    The second thing to know is that the numbers aren’t set in stone.  You may call or write in to plead your case if there are extenuating circumstances that can’t be deduced from the numbers.

    Third, there are three types of aid; scholarships, grants, and loans. Filling out the FAFSA could yield offers for all three but you should take scholarships and grants first because they don’t require repayment.

  2. Ask for reevaluation.  Federal financial aid is based on numbers from the previous tax year’s filing.  In this economy, many people have had their financial situation change drastically in the course of a single year, or even a few months.  If you (and your parents) find yourself in such a situation, it behooves you to call the FAFSA office and ask for a reassessment.  It could make a big difference in the amount you are awarded for the coming school year.

  3. Explain yourself.  Just because your parents earn quite a bit doesn’t mean that they can necessarily afford to send you to college.  Unfortunately, the numbers don’t always tell the whole story.  That’s why you need to speak up.  By calling or writing in to plead your case you can explain that your sister’s heart surgery left the family with a mountain of debt, or that your house was foreclosed and all of your parents’ money is going to fight a legal battle with the bank at the moment.  Whatever the reason that they can’t afford to pay for school, let someone know.  The worst that could happen is that it makes no difference.  On the other hand, a few minutes of explanation could net you another shot at financial aid.

  4. File independently.  If you can file independently, you should, because chances are that you make a lot less money than your parents, which means you could get more aid.  There are several factors that could make you eligible to file independently, such as being over the age of 24, being an orphan over the age of 18, having your own legal dependents, and so on.  Check the FAFSA website to see if you might qualify.

  5. File on time!  Tardiness is not generally acceptable at the university level, so if you’re looking to get into one of the 50 best colleges, do not file your FAFSA paperwork late.  The college rankings won’t tell you which schools are more inclined to work with students who have problems in the area of funding, but you should generally assume that they’ll all be less than willing to help a student who won’t help himself.

So there you have it. Feel free to comment on these tips or add your own in the comments section below.

About cmontrose

Carol Montrose is a writer on educational topics and is a contributor here at MyNextCollege.com.

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