you may already be financial aid experts. But keep reading.
Even financial aid veterans can benefit from these tips.
Make your annual acquaintance with
the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE forms. Your Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms and PROFILE forms are
only good for one year. To qualify for financial aid, you
must reapply annually. Apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov
Here are some hints for maximizing your success during, and
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. (To
read up on common FAFSA errors, visit http://www.finaid.org/fafsa/errors.phtml.)
Apply early. We can't say this often enough. Apply as
soon after January 1 as you can. The earlier you get started,
the better your chances for getting financial aid. File
by Feb. 1 for the next fall term 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
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
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
advisor or financial aid office 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.
Your college 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.
Know Your Scholarships
Some people are lucky enough to receive several scholarships.
If you're one of the lucky ones, be sure you know the particulars
of all your awards. For example, some scholarships are good
for one year only. Others require that you maintain a certain
grade point average to keep them.
Also, as a college sophomore or junior, you may be eligible
for different scholarships than you were as a freshman. Visit
your financial aid office and speak with your academic advisor
to get started. Be sure you know the requirements and due
dates for each scholarship.
Preparing for Transition
At some point during your undergraduate years, you will have
to make a decision: to enter the workplace after graduation
or to start preparing for graduate school. Here are some vital
steps you should start taking now for both these possibilities.
Getting Ready for the Workplace
Having a college degree will certainly help you land a good
job. But there are still steps for you to take and issues
to consider. You may want to begin by doing the following:
Read trade and professional journals to learn about future
job openings. Also consider attending professional national
or regional conferences in your field (students often are
invited to attend for free or at little charge).
Understand your student loan obligation: If you have student
loans, make sure you know what you will have to repay and
when. You may have a grace period before the first payment
is due, depending on the loan. Your college's financial
aid office can help you learn about your responsibilities
concerning loan repayment.
If possible, try to find an internship or research position
in your field during the summer. Your work experience will
give you an advantage while applying for jobs after you
graduate. These positions may also provide stipends, giving
you extra money for living expenses while you are still
in school. Check out the Ventures
Scholars Career Center as a starting point to find more
Start networking. Let friends and relatives know that
you'll be graduating soon and will be looking for work in
a particular field. Also try to find someone in the career
you want to pursue who is willing to mentor yougive
you advice and support as you navigate your way toward your
Consider working with job placement organizations. Just
make sure the service is one where the employer pays the
costand not you! Another option is to use the placement
centers run by your state, county, or city.
Be patient. Often it takes a while before you land a good
job. Also, if you interview for a job that you don't getdon't
take it personally. You may not have gotten the job for
reasons that have nothing to do with you. Just keep believing
in yourself and be persistent. Eventually, you'll find the
Opting for Graduate School
Fortunately, you already know a lot about getting ready for
graduate school. After all, the process is similar to becoming
an undergraduate. Just keep the following points in mind:
Start planning early, preferably a year before you plan
to enroll. This will give you time to read about the school,
visit the campus, apply for admission, and get your financial
aid in place.
If you took out a loan as an undergraduate, find out if
the loan can be deferred. Depending on the type of loan,
you may be able to delay making student loan payments if
you attend graduate school. Your college's financial aid
office can help you find out about deferments.
Find out if your college credits will transfer to the
graduate school you've selected. Your current advisor can
go over your transcripts and determine which credits will
transfer. Remember, schools can vary widely on their policies
for accepting credits from other institutions. It's best
to research this before you decide on your new school.