START HERE --Begin Your Journey on the Winding Road to Financial Aid
The easiest way to begin is to use a Financial Aid Roadmap
. By following the process detailed here,
you will increase your chances of being included among the approximately
60% of students who receive financial aid for colleges/schools in USA.
Questions to Consider:
Am I eligible for financial aid programs?
What are the documents
required for financial aid application?
When should I start looking for financial aid options?
Who should I contact about various financial aid opportunities?
How can I find out how much aid I will need to attend a college?
How can I reduce the cost of going to college?
Some of the requirements to
receive aid from federal student financial aid (SFA) programs are, that you
- Be a citizen or eligible non
citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security Number;
- Have a high school diploma or
a General Education Development (GED) certificate or pass an approved "ability
to benefit" test;
- Enroll in an eligible program
as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate;
- Register (or have
Selective Service. If
you are a male between the ages of 18-25; and have a result of Eligible or
Partially Eligible on Question 35 of the application.
Am I eligible for other education benefits?
There are two educational income tax credits that
can reduce your or your family's federal taxes. They are based on your college
tuition and fee charges. The Hope tax credit can be
claimed during the first two years of college, up to a maximum of $1,500 per year. The
Lifetime Learning tax credit is available for any level of postsecondary
study, up to a current maximum of $1,000 per year.
Note that only one type of credit (Hope or Lifetime Learning) may be claimed for
a student in any given year. For more information about tax credits, you can
visit the IRS web site at
Plan ahead! It is in your best interests to start this process in the spring
of your junior high school year. Don't wait until the last minute
and then try and figure everything out at once.
First, select and shortlist
the schools and colleges you want to attend, this is one of the most important
decisions you need to make. Another is how you're going to pay for your
Some of the
basic questions you should ask when considering a college/ school for further
studies or career are:
school offer the courses and type of program you want?
Do you meet
the admissions requirements?
school offer a high quality education at a reasonable price?
school offer services you need and activities you are interested in?
job placement rates for students who have recently graduated?
What is the
school's student loan default rate?
How is the
What is the
school's refund policy?
What is the
school's campus security policy?
FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW
questions you should ask about financial aid availability from short listed
schools'/ colleges' are:
the counseling procedures for the school's financial aid office. Make it a
point to schedule meetings with the financial aid officers there. These
officers can help you get a realistic view of how you might be able to afford
attending their college/school.
Inform them about your family's general financial
situation and get an overview of what your chances are of receiving
Find out what the financial aid application
process is like--what forms they require, and any supplementary materials they
want from your family?
What is the
school's selection criteria for financial aid recipients?
financial assistance is available, including information on all federal,
state, local, private, and institutional financial aid programs?
the procedures and deadlines for individual financial aid program application
How does the
school determine your financial need, type and amount of assistance in your
financial aid package?
NOTE: In the spring of your junior high
school year it is also highly advisable to start
researching local sources of scholarships. Although you typically cannot apply
for scholarships until the fall of your senior year, you should
be checking with your school counselor for any funding by organizations, corporations
or community groups in your area.
You can also find information about federal, state,
institutional, and private student aid in your local
library's reference section (usually listed under "student aid" or
"financial aid"). Student aid information may also be available from
foundations, religious organizations, community organizations, as well as
organizations such as the American Medical Association
or American Bar Association.
Get a copy of a Pre-Application Worksheet
for informational purposes. This will help
familiarize you and your parents with the kinds of questions you will need to
Stay in touch with your counselor and
center specialist beginning in your junior high school year to make sure you find
out about all available scholarships in your area. They will also
help you obtain the forms for federal and
state aid programs and update you on the same.
Visit financial aid officers at your target colleges
to find out specific information about financial aid procedures at each college.
fairs and be aware of college representative visits to your high school, they
are a good source for information about financial aid programs and procedures.
Talk with your parents about their
financial status and how it may impact your chances of receiving
aid. Ask for your parents' advice and help as
you gather financial aid information. Be sure your parents attend
any Financial Aid programs being held at your school.
Consider consulting an independent counselor
or financial aid advisor. For a fee, these professionals can help you
locate sources of funding and help you through the financial aid
is the difference between your school's cost of
attendance (including living expenses), as calculated by your school,
and your Expected Family Contribution
Calculating your EFC can you tell how much money your family will be
expected to contribute to the cost of college. This is determined by the Federal
Processor from the information you provide on the FAFSA form--but you
can estimate your EFC right here on the Internet.
The best thing you can do is to sit down with your parents
and begin adding up the total cost of attending each of your target
college(s) for one year. You can gain a clear idea of the costs
by researching each school.
Many colleges will provide you with information estimating
a total annual cost.
Add up fixed items such as:
tuition, housing, food services, etc.
Add in the
estimated cost of books, clothes, personal
expenses, supplies, travel to and from school, and entertainment.
Try to be
realistic in setting these amounts.
Now take the total estimated cost of one year at
college and subtract your Expected Family Contribution amount. This
gives you a general idea of what your financial aid
"need" will be. This "Financial Aid Package" will hopefully consist
a combination of federal and state grants, private or college-based
scholarships, grants, and loans.
You will need records
of income earned in the year prior to when you will start school.
You may also need records
of your parent's income information if you are a dependent student.
For the 2002-2003 school year, you will need
financial information from 2001. You will need to refer to:
- Your Social Security Number
(can be found on Social Security card)
- Your driver's license (if any)
- Your W-2 Forms and other
records of money earned
- Your (and your spouse's, if
you are married) 2001 Federal Income Tax Return - IRS Form 1040, 1040A,
1040EZ, 1040Telefile, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam,
American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated
States of Micronesia
- Your parent's 2001 Federal
Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
- Your 2001 untaxed income
records - Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or
veterans benefits records
- Your 2001 bank statements
- Your 2001 business and
investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and
other investment records
- Your alien registration card
(if you are not a U.S. citizen)
Consider public over private schools.
Compare the costs of attending a public college to the costs of
a private institution. Public schools can often offer comparable
levels of academic and social possibilities.
Plan ahead to reduce the number of years you attend college.
While still in high school, taking Advanced Placement courses and taking the
accompanying Advanced Placement exams can give you college level credit.
You can also take community college courses to get college level credit.
Look into summer programs offered by community or 4 year colleges
in your area. Finally, consider taking summer session courses
offered by colleges while you are actually in college! All of
these options can help you substantially lessen the amount of tuition
you will pay.
Spread out the number of years to complete college.
If you lessen the number of
units or courses you take, you will free
up more time to work to help pay your tuition and living costs.
It may take you longer to graduate, but you will be able to spread
the cost of attending college over a longer period of time and
you will be able to afford it more easily.
Attend a community college for the first two years
of your college career. You will be able to complete most if not
all of your lower division required courses at an incredible
discount. Take advantage of this option if finances are really tight for
your family and especially if you do not want to go into debt by taking student loans.
Develop a reasonable budget while attending
college. Many students find that they can save substantial amounts
of money by simply keeping close track of expenses. Use common sense: buy used books instead of the ridiculously
expensive new ones, find the cheapest living accommodations possible, ask college housing offices
if there are low cost dormitory options and food service plans,
and finally, you may want to consider living at home to save money