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How To Pay For College (Financial Aid)

If you are preparing for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, SAT2, etc. through Mr. Test Prep, then you must be planning on attending college, right?  You cannot think about going to college without thinking about how to pay for college. When it comes to financial aid, the 2 biggest mistakes families make are either applying too late or not applying at all. As you think about paying for college, you should know that there are two main types of financial aid: 1. need based aid – federal and state grants and 2. merit-based aid. The SAT/ACT Insider will break down the difference in these types of aid for you in the blog below.

Need based aid: If you are looking for need-based aid, the first place to start is by submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online starting January of your senior year. The application form is required to apply for any federal financial aid and helps determine how much aid you can receive for college. By applying, not only will you become eligible for government college aid, but you will also become eligible for thousands of other non-federal grants and scholarships. In addition to the FAFSA, some schools will ask you to submit a second application, the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, for non-federal (private) aid. These schools will use your PROFILE application to help them award scholarships and grants that are given out by the school. The best tip we can give you for filling out your FAFSA – do it now! The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better your chances are of securing aid for college. Student who file their FAFSA between January-March receive, on average, 2X the amount of grant money as those who file later.

Merit-based aid: The other type of aid available is merit-based aid. Merit-based financial aid is based on your achievements and ability regardless of your financial status. For example, athletic scholarships are merit-based aid, as are grants awarded to academic students for their grades. You can even earn merit-based aid for scoring high on the SAT or ACT! Merit-based aid is usually awarded by colleges, organizations, or corporations.

Whether you are looking for need-based or merit-based or both, here are some tips to help you with your financial aid process:

  1. File out your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Government aid is first come, first serve so if you wait too long you won’t receive much aid. Even if you’re parents haven’t filed their taxes yet, you can still submit an estimate now and make changes later.
  2. Ask your parents to file their taxes in January instead of April. This way you can send in an accurate FAFSA way earlier than the rest of the financial aid seekers, and you’ll have a good shot at a better package.
  3. Complete and submit the CSS PROFILE form (if necessary).
  4. Apply for state aid. State aid is usually offered to in-state school students. All 50 states give merit and need-based aid. For links to your state’s aid office, go to www.studentaid.ed.gov.
  5. Do some more financial aid research online! Websites to visit are:
    1. www.ed.gov
    2. www.finaid.org
    3. www.fastweb.com

credit: kaplansatact

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