Tip #1 – Complete the FAFSA, Early!
What is a FAFSA? A FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a financial aid application form that you will need to apply for the following 3 things:
- Federal & State Student Grants
January 1st is the first day that high school seniors are eligible to file their FAFSA. You should try to file as close to this day as possible. The competition for financial aid is fierce during tough economic times, so it’s important to plan ahead rather than procrastinate
This is the easiest way to apply for federal aid. Most importantly, your data is checked before it is transmitted to the processing center, so there’s less chance of making an error. Also, filing the FAFSA online can reduce processing time by one to two weeks.
What are some common mistakes that students make when filling out the FAFSA form?
- Not applying early enough
- Not reading the instructions
- Not fully completing the application
- Not using the correct SSN
- Not having their parent’s completed tax forms
Tip #2 – Conquer the CSS Financial Aid Profile
Many students often confuse the CSS Profile form with the FAFSA form. The main difference between the CSS Profile form and the FAFSA form is the type of aid they help you to apply for.
The CSS Profile is a financial aid application service provided by the College Board that is used to apply for private scholarships and institutional grant programs offered by individual schools. The FAFSA, on the other hand, is used to apply for Federal programs.
Unlike the FAFSA, which is free to complete, the CSS Profile form costs about $25 to create and submit to one school. Each additional school costs about $16 per submission. A limited amount of fee waivers are available to low-income families. Visit collegeboard.com to learn more info.
Tip #3 – What’s It Going to Cost You?
You can’t go to college until you figure out how much it’s going to cost you. In the college world, this is known as the COA or Cost of Attendance.
The COA includes the following 5 elements:
- Tuition & Fees – These are the costs of your education. They may vary based on your academic program and number of credit hours.
- Books & Supplies – These are the costs of your textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, etc.
- Room & Board – These are the costs billed by the college if you live on campus and have a meal plan.
- Miscellaneous/Personal Expenses– The costs for things like laundry and cell phone bills fall under this category.
- Travel – These are costs related to traveling back and forth between school and home. If you live over 200 miles away from school, then it might not be a bad idea to estimate how much it would cost to travel home and how often you plan to do so.
To determine how much college is going to cost you, you will need to calculate the items described above and deduct them from the financial aid you’ve received from Federal Student Aid and other private scholarships and institutional grant programs (if applicable).