Tuesday, March 20, 2007

10 financial aid mistakes and how to avoid them

Looking for financial aid to pay for college tuition? Bankrate.com lists the 10 most common mistakes and how you can avoid them. A good read for anyone planning on scoring some extra free money.

1. Not applying at all
It sounds like a mistake that's too obvious to make, but students collectively miss out on millions in both federal and private aid each year because they don't apply.

2. Applying early
Though knocking the college application process out of the way before your peers seems like a good strategy, it may not be for your wallet.

3. Planning too late
"The No. 1 mistake students make is not financially planning at all," says Jeffrey Wallin, associate director for financial analysis at the University of Vermont.

4. Overlooking private scholarships and grants
Federal and campus-based programs are your two best shots at receiving a financial aid check, but they're not the only places you can find college dough.

5. Forgetting the family
Students lucky enough to have relatives and family friends who want to contribute to their higher education bills should be aware that financial gifts from outside the family can impact their financial aid eligibility.

6. Paying for free dough
The good news is that there's tons of free loot out there. The better news is that finding it shouldn't cost you a dime.

7. Believing all loans are made equal
When it comes to student loans, the big name isn't always the best name.

8. Earning too much
Sound impossible? Guess again. The federal government expects dependent students to contribute a significant portion of their income toward their higher education.

9. Neglecting your aid officer
Though aid officers can't radically alter a school's financial aid packaging policies, they can help adjust your award package if you have special financial circumstances.

10. Ignoring alternative aid
If both the federal government and your future college leave you high and dry in the financial aid department, investigate alternative sources of funding, such as tuition reimbursement programs through work, loan forgiveness programs and educational reward opportunities offered through Americorps, the Peace Corps and Teach for America.

More here.

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