Sunday, February 22, 2009
10 Things College Financial Aid Offices Will Not Tell You
Posted by Kaitlin Lanier
Article by David Weliver
1. "You waited until April? Sorry, we gave your money away."
At first glance, the amount of financial aid available to students seems like a gold mine. According to education testing and information organization The College Board, students received over $122 billion in aid last year for undergraduate and graduate study; more than $111 billion came from the federal government alone. Problem is, you'll need a treasure map to find your share. The bewildering aid-application process stumps thousands of families each year, leaving many to pay more tuition than they have to. Lots of students miss out on aid because of the confusing deadlines for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Fafsa), which everybody must complete to be considered for government grants and subsidized loans. The forms, which are available from colleges and at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/, are reviewed first by the government and then by your student's prospective school. While the deadline on the form is June 30, many schools' individual aid deadlines -- listed in the colleges' materials but not on the Fafsa forms -- are as early as February.
If you're the parent of a high school senior, keep a list of all the schools' different deadlines. To play it safe, though, apply for aid as soon as any admissions applications are in the mail -- as in now. "Families need to submit their financial aid info as soon as they can after Jan. 1 preceding the student's freshman year," says Barry Simmons, aid director at Virginia Tech. While the forms typically ask for the previous year's tax information -- a common reason parents postpone applying until April -- it's completely legit to estimate tax figures based on last year's return and update them later.
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