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Financial Aid

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Dollars If you are preparing for college, many types of financial aid are available to you in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans.  Student Aid on the Web is a good place to research the types of financial aid opportunities available to you.  With billions of dollars at stake, it is important to begin the search process early and to apply on time.

You should begin preparing for financial aid as a freshman or sophomore in high school.  At this time, you should map out your coursework and activities:  colleges will look for challenging coursework; a good grade point average; and extracurricular activities such as sports, volunteer work, and community involvement.  You can also take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).  If you do well on the PSAT, you may be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship.  In addition, you should begin researching your financial aid options by talking to your career counselor and researching grants and scholarships through books and the Internet.

When you are a junior in high school, you should take the SAT and/or ACT exams.  You will also want to begin visiting colleges during this time.  During your college visits, meet with a financial aid officer to find out what types of aid are available.

After January 1 of the year you will begin college, it is time to start filling out paperwork.  Fill out your tax returns as early as possible, because you will need accurate tax information.  Then, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Available at FAFS on the Web, this form is your key to most financial aid, and to all Federal and state grants and loans.  Keep copies of all of the forms you submit.

About four weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains federal financial aid information.  Send a copy of the SAR and, if requested, your tax forms to the college you are interested in to see what other financial aid they will offer.  Schedule an appointment with the school's financial aid director if you have any questions.

FinAid's custom calculators can help you figure out how much school will cost, how much you need to save, and how much aid you will need.  Also check Peterson's College Planner and CollegeBoard.com for more financial aid help.


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