You Can Afford College

For Future Freshman Only

Got Financial Aid?

Expenses to Consider

Don't Pay for Easily Accessible Information

Virtually all information on scholarships and grants is free. You never have to pay for this information. Furthermore, don't believe any person or organization claiming they can guarantee you a scholarship or a grant for a fee. While there are legitimate services that do some legwork in locating scholarships or grants for money, you can do it on your own more cost effectively. Too many scam artists make a living promising to get money for potential college students.

Many resources are available on the Web that will direct you to legitimate information about scholarships. Librarians are a great resource. They can help you navigate through the myriad information that's available.

Don't be discouraged if it takes a while to find a scholarship. It's a task that you have to pursue with determination. But you'll find it's well worth your effort when you receive money that lets you breathe easier as you make your spending plan.


If you're considering applying for financial aid in any form, start early. Put this on your "to do" list as you begin your senior year of high school. Why the rush? Because schools tend to award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, applications take time to complete, review, and approve. Many require financial details you'll need to get from your parents or guardians as well as end-of-the-year tax documents you won't be able to get until after January 1 of your senior year. You also may be required to write essays explaining your financial situation. All this takes time.

As you are looking to go to college, here's how you start:

Do your research. Learn as much as you can about the colleges that interest you, and make sure to look at their Web sites. Go and visit them, either during a scheduled "preview" day or by making arrangements with the admissions office to go on your own. Also, make sure to connect with the financial aid offices early in the admissions process—don't wait until your first day of college to get to know them.

Get friendly with the FAFSA. Learn about and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Generally speaking, this form is your ticket to accessing federal, state, or college/university financial aid funds. You can fill this out online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. About 600 schools nationwide require students to fill out the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to determine eligibility for non-federal forms of financial aid. This form is more detailed than the FAFSA and will ask a lot of questions about your family's assets. Also, unlike the FAFSA, there's a cost associated with the PROFILE; there's a $5 fee for filing online and you'll pay $18 for every school to which you have the results sent. You can complete the PROFILE online at profileonline.collegeboard.com/index.jsp.

Here are some additional hints for maximizing your financial aid success:

  • Read the instructions carefully. Terms like "household" or "parent or guardian" have a specific meaning when it comes to financial aid. To answer the questions correctly, pay close attention to the instructions.

  • Apply early. We can't say this often enough. Apply as soon after January 1 of your senior year in high school as you can. The earlier you get started, the better your chances for getting financial aid. File by Feb. 1 of your senior year in high school if possible.

  • You don't need to file your tax return before you submit your FAFSA. Filling out your tax return first will make completing the FAFSA easier. However, you do not need to submit your tax return to the IRS before you submit your FAFSA. You can submit an updated form after your tax return is filed.

  • Keep your paperwork. Save everything you used to complete the form, such as tax records, driver's license, etc. Also, print a copy of your completed FAFSA and keep it with your records.

  • Remember to reapply next year! Your FAFSA is good for one year only. You must complete a new FAFSA form for every year you attend college.

Review the SAR

About four weeks after you send in the FAFSA, you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR). Review it carefully and make sure it is complete and accurate (this is why you save those records!). If you find an error or need to make changes to the information on your SAR, you may want to speak with your high school counselor or the financial aid office at your selected college before mailing in corrections.

If your SAR is complete and accurate, it should list the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This is the amount your family is expected to put toward the cost of your education. The college you plan to attend will receive your EFC, along with the rest of your information. The school then will use this information to prepare a financial aid package for you.

Research and Apply for Scholarships

Visit your high school career/college counselor for advice. And start surfing the Web. Web sites like FastWeb, Wiredscholar.com, and Collegeboard.com offer free online scholarship search tools). Also, check with the financial aid office at your college of choice for special scholarships for which you might qualify. The Ventures Scholars Web site is also a great resource for scholarships.

Some school-sponsored scholarships are awarded automatically based on your college applications—often because you have good grades and/or high SAT or ACT scores—and your FAFSA. But some scholarships require separate applications and essays and have hard-and-fast deadlines. Be sure you know the requirements and due dates for each scholarship.

Financial Aid Calculators

Want the inside scoop on how much financial aid you can expect? Use an online financial aid calculator. Some colleges offer financial aid calculators on their Web sites. You can also check the calculators on the "Pay for College" page of the student section of www.collegeboard.com, or go to the calculators at www.finaid.org. Plug in your information and the calculator will tell you what you can expect. Remember, these are merely estimates, but they can help with your college financial planning.

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