10 Tips to Navigate The Financial Aid Process Successfully

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Getting your student into the best possible college with the least amount of financial impact on your child’s future and your family’s finances can be a very challenging and difficult time. Parents facing this challenge for the first time may feel like they are in above their heads, but even those who have done this before might have problems keeping up with some of the changes. Here are ten tips to help you navigate the financial aid process successfully:

1. Ace the FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the first step in the entire financial aid process. Minimize errors here and increase your chances of qualifying for the maximum amount of student aid to which you are entitled.

2. Know Your Deadlines: It can be helpful to have a giant calendar on the wall listing all deadlines for financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Don’t miss out on money because you missed a deadline!

3. Compare Net Costs: Don’t remove a college from contention based on a first glance at tuition and expenses. As colleges send out their financial aid packets, you will have a better idea of the bottom line cost for attending once all financial aid is taken into consideration.

4. Appeal Where Appropriate: If you feel a college is out of line with your other offers, you can ask about why there is a difference. Given the huge number of applications each college processes, it is possible for errors to be made.

5. Provide Supplemental Information: If your financial circumstances have changed due to job loss, medical emergency, divorce, or another situation which affects your ability to pay, document those changes and supply additional information to the schools.

6. Borrow Smart: If you need to borrow money to make up any shortfall, be smart about the process. Understand the difference between federal and private student loans, learn about interest rates, and calculate repayment amounts.

7. Don’t Borrow Too Much: Student loans should only be used for college expenses, not living expenses. Talk to your child about scholarships and employment opportunities.

8. Start Repayment Planning Now: Don’t wait until your child graduates to think about repayment. Make sure the amount your child can earn will be able to cover the estimated monthly payments.

9. Learn About Loan Consolidation: While it feels like it makes sense to consolidate loans to minimize paperwork and possibly lessen monthly payments, it might end up costing more money in the long run.

10. Invest the Necessary Time: Work the process properly and you could save your child and your family thousands of dollars.

The best way to navigate the financial aid process successfully is to work with a professional advisor who can guide you through every step. Set up an appointment now for a free financial aid strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA). 

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