Financial Aid 101: How to Fund Your College Career

Welcome to Financial Aid 101, a course designed for those of you who will soon launch your college careers. By the end of this blog/course, you will be able to:

  • Understand what FAFSA is
  • Know how and when to apply for student aid
  • Memorize and list the filing deadlines for all 50 states (or at least know where to find them!)

Chapter 1
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The U.S Department of Education provides students-to-be with one-stop shopping to determine eligibility for federal funding for higher education. This eliminates the need for a separate application for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Plus Loans, etc.

Chapter 2A – How to Apply
The FAFSA website, www.fafsa.ed.gov is an incredibly easy-to-navigate site. On the home page, you will see a prominently placed box with the headline –“Get help paying for college” and a red button labeled “start here.” Each page of the application has a sidebar with helpful hints. This site can also be used to check the status of your application or to edit it. If you choose not to use the online application, you can request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 319-337-5665. Those who are hearing impaired can call the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.

Chapter 2B – When to Apply
The short answer is as soon as possible. The deadline for filing your FASFA is June 30, 2011 for those of you who plan to begin classes this fall. You can complete your application as early as January 1st of your high school graduation year. Depending on what state you plan to attend college in, you may also be able to qualify for state aid. The filing deadlines for state aid vary. Finally, colleges and universities may also be able to provide financial aid. Some of these institutions will require that you exhaust potential federal and state options to be considered for their funding. The earlier you start the process, the better your chance of obtaining the maximum aid you are eligible for.

Chapter 3
Now that you’ve read an overview of the process, it’s time to for a quiz. Use this website to research the state FAFSA filing deadlines that apply to you.

In addition to exploring financial aid options, future students may want to work with their local banker to help build a savings plan and set up the appropriate accounts that they will need during their college career.

For additional information on federal and state student aid, check out these sites:
U.S. Department of Education
Maryland Higher Education Commission
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
New Jersey Grants & Financial Aid
West Virginia Department of Education

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