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What Should I Know About College Financial Aid?

The thought of dealing with years, if not decades, of staggering student loan debt can be terrifying. It can feel like there is no way to save enough for your child’s education without damaging your own financial health. Luckily, loans aren’t the only way to go.

There are a variety of other financial aid options available, and it is important that you choose which type best fits your personal needs:

  • Grants: usually don’t need to be repaid
  • Scholarships: free money based on academic achievement or talent
  • Work-Study: helps you pay for school through part-time work
  • Military Aid: programs specifically for those in the military or in military families

You should start by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Schools use the information on the FAFSA® form to determine your eligibility for a Pell Grant, and if so, how much you’re eligible to receive.

Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. You are not eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution or are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense.

Learn more about how financial aid works, types of aid (grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, loans), and who qualifies for aid by visiting the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. –

You can get your FSA ID early (sometimes it takes a couple of days, so start now). Once you have a parent FSA ID, you can use it for all your kids. And your student can use their student FSA ID for all four years of college. As always, keep your ID and login credentials safe, as they can be used to log in and access information at various federal student aid and loan websites.

You may also need a CSS Profile, which stands for College Scholarship Service Profile. This is an online application created and maintained by the College Board. It allows college students to apply for non-federal financial aid. It is an additional financial aid form used at about 300 colleges, including many top schools and prestigious private colleges.

If your school doesn’t need the CSS Profile, you don’t need to worry about it. If it does, you need to complete both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, which means you need to plan and prepare to do more work.

The CSS profile is not free. It costs $25 to fill out and submit the form to one school, and it costs $16 to submit it to each additional school. The CSS profile is also three times as long as the FAFSA, so it will take more time to complete. A few schools may also require their own financial aid form or forms.

Don’t forget about scholarships. Forbes has a great list of several search engines that can help you find both national and local scholarships that you child may qualify for –

Trying to figure out how to pay for both college and retirement can be daunting. You don’t have to go through this alone. Give me a call and let’s set up a time to talk. We can see what your options are and what works best for you and your family.

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