Financial Aid Process

Students, and especially parents, should understand all aspects of financial aid process. Detailed discussion of scholarship, grant, and loan application processes, common pitfalls to avoid, and all-around practical advice are provided.

Below is a condensed list of the StartSchoolNow information and advice regarding all types of financial aid.

1. Learn the sources of free money and criteria for winning scholarships and grants.

2. Learn the types of scholarships and grants. Be prepared to apply for the scholarships you have the best chance of winning.

3. Applying for financial aid: Learn how to apply for each kind.

4. Submit the CSS/PROFILE financial aid application, if required by your colleges and universities.

5. Apply for a FSA ID and submit the FAFSA online.

6. Submit winning scholarship applications. Winning applications don’t simply list and discuss student activities and awards, they paint a vivid and impressive portrait of students as a person and future member of the college community.

7. Scholarship essays should be written to illustrate who you are, to make a lasting impression, and to encourage members of the scholarship judging committee to care about you.

8. Search for national scholarships using online search engines.

9. Learn about the most common scholarship pitfalls and how to avoid them.

10. Student loans: Learn student loan options and which lenders are the best (and worst).

11. Determine the size of student loan you need and arrange to borrow money. Calculate how much you need to borrow by summing your financial aid awards and comparing them to the cost of attendance.

12. Apply for student loans: The process for applying for federal loans is automatic when the FAFSA is submitted; each alternative or private loan has its own unique application requirements.

13. When choosing a lender, remember government sources of money (Perkins, Stafford, and PLUS loans) almost always offer the best interest rates and repayment options. Alternative or private loans should be considered only when government loans have been exhausted.

14. Federal Work Study is a part-time job with an hourly wage. These student jobs are usually located on-campus and are designed to help students earn wages to pay for books and other materials. Students should research and apply for available Federal Work Study jobs before arriving on campus.

15. Summary Table of Scholarships and Grants provides information on how to apply, when to apply, who is eligible, and how much may be awarded for each type of scholarships and grant.

16. Summary Table of Student Loans provides information on how to apply, when to apply, who is eligible, how much money may be borrowed, repayment terms, interest rates and fees.