13- Steps to Applying for Financial Aid
If you plan on receiving financial aid to manage college costs, you can’t just sit around and wait for a wad of money to fall in your lap. You must first APPLY for financial aid. To do so, follow these twelve steps:
- Apply now
Don’t wait for an acceptance letter from a college before you apply for financial aid. Most students need to know whether a financial aid offer is adequate before choosing a college. Financial aid deadlines are usually in the winter months. If you wait until you’ve been accepted, grants and scholarships may already be gone.
- Identify which forms you must file.
Make sure you know exactly which forms you need to complete in order to meet each college’s requirements. To apply for federal financial aid, and to apply for many state student aid programs, students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can complete the FAFSA online. If applying for non-federal aid, some colleges and universities require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. You can also complete the PROFILE online.
- Check the deadlines or preferred filing dates.
Make sure you meet the deadlines or preferred dates if you want to be considered for all types of available aid.
- Get Organized.
Before you and your family sit down to complete your forms, gather together ALL of your most recent financial records (income tax returns, W-2 forms, pay stubs, interest statements, home mortgage and debt information, etc.). You will need the records for the calendar year preceding the academic year you plan to enter college next year, you will need financial records for (current &) previous year.
- Know which federal income tax returns you plan to file and complete a rough draft.
Income information reported on the IRS 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ is used to determine your eligibility for financial aid programs. You don’t have to file your income tax return before you complete your financial aid applications, but it’s a good idea at least to have completed a rough draft. Some questions on the FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE are cross-referenced to the IRS forms in order to make them easier to complete.
- Complete all forms accurately, completely, and legibly.
Inaccurate or missing information or unreadable answers could cause costly delays in processing your documents.
- Provide all the information requested on the form.
For instance, if the answer calls for a zero, enter a zero. Don’t just leave the question blank. This will speed up the review of your application by the financial aid staff at your college or university.
- Describe any unusual circumstances that might affect your family’s ability to pay for college. If there’s something you want to communicate to a college, and there doesn’t seem to be any place to enter it on the form you are completing, send a written explanation directly to the college’s financial aid office.
- Keep photocopies of every form.
You may need to check your original forms if your college follows up for more information.
- Be consistent on all forms.
Don’t call yourself ‘William Robert’ on one form and ‘Billy Bob’ on another. In order to complete your file, colleges and programs will need to match up records from several sources, and inconsistencies or mistakes will slow this process down.
- Read all the material you receive in the mail.
It may not all be junk mail. For example, within a few weeks of completing a FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). If there are any errors in the information, make corrections and mail it back. Same thing goes for reviewing your CSS® Acknowledgement if you have completed a CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. Note PROFILE corrections on the Data Confirmation section and send them directly to your college(s).
- Respond promptly.
Don’t slack off! If additional information is needed, send it as soon as possible. If you find errors, fix them quickly. When it comes to applying for aid, time is money.
- Let Us Help You!
Do not gamble $40,000.00 to $85,000 a year. Let a professional that understand and knows how to navigate the system, formulas and the financial matters to help you during this process and give you the peace of mind that you deserve.