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    You're Eligible For Financial Aid
    By Kalman A. Chany  

Assume you're eligible.
Don't rule yourself out because of income or academics. And don't rule out a college because you think it's too expensive. Most families don't pay the full sticker price. The higher the cost, the more aid you may receive.

Don't wait to be accepted to a college to apply for aid. The coffers may be empty by spring!

Get application forms as soon as possible. Request application information now from the colleges. As a minimum, you'll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form after January 1. The FAFSA form is available in December at high schools, colleges and public libraries. You may also need the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form, state aid forms, and forms provided by the college specifically.

Deadlines vary. Be prepared to meet each one! Many colleges have different deadlines for different forms. For priority consideration, some forms may be due as early as the end of December, though most are due in February or March.

Do the math. Figure out your "Expected Family Contribution." Use worksheets in financial aid guidebooks to learn ­ before you apply ­ what the colleges will estimate you can afford to pay. Rules and requirements have changed in recent years, and methodologies differ. Be sure to get up-to-date information.

Before December 31, maximize your aid eligibility. Freshman year aid awards are based in part on income for the year ending December 31 of the student's senior year in high school. Also consider making appropriate adjustments to your assets, debts and retirement provisions.

Do your income tax forms early, To meet early financial aid application requirements and deadlines, you'll need to do a draft version of your income tax return. Many schools will require a copy of your actual tax return in the spring to verify your information.

Follow instructions carefully on application forms. Common mistakes which can disqualify your applications are: forgetting to sign them, leaving lines blank, or even using the wrong writing implement ­ some require pen, some pencil.


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