By Nancy R. Ziering, Special to StudentAdvisor.com
1. Federal financial aid should always be your first choice. Use every dime of it that you can before you start taking out loans. Federal financial aid is awarded on a needs basis and its first come, first served. In the case of financial aid, the early bird gets cash! Nearly half of the students who would be eligible for Federal financial aid never even apply for it because they assume they won’t get it. That just means more money for you. Federal financial aid comes in the form of grants, loans and the Federal work-study program. You’ll have to speak with your financial aid advisor to determine what types of Federal aid is available at your particular school, because for example not all schools participate in the work-study program.
2. State financial aid is also available. Financial aid from your state will depend upon you Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but the deadlines are usually earlier than the Federal deadline at the end of June. Again, you’re financial aid advisor will be able to tell you what is available to you from your specific state.
3. Student loans are always a last resort and should be used carefully. There are loans available from the Federal government and there are also loans available from private lending institutions. The Federal government caps the interest that can be charged on their student loans, but private institutions are able to charge higher rates. Be sure you know exactly what you are getting before you sign any paperwork.
4. It’s important to keep in mind that not all colleges are the same when it comes to financial aid. You can easily find their financial aid information on their websites. The college will always award the best financial aid package to the best students and even a few points on the SAT or a GPA that’s a 3.75 instead of a 4.0 can be the difference between having your entire year paid for and struggling to make up the difference that your financial aid doesn’t cover.
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Nancy R. Ziering is from College and Retirement Solutions, LLC. www.college-retirement.com