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5 Tips for Planning for College and Applying for Student Loans

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If you and your teen are starting to think about the college application process, you may be feeling overloaded and overwhelmed; however, it's important to think about how you will finance college before you begin to apply. To help, ECMC has tips for FAFSA filing season for families as they begin the process:

F—Fine Print: Be aware that awards may "frontload" scholarships, offering generous freshman year packages that don't necessarily carry over to sophomore year and beyond. You should be vigilant about reading the fine print in financial aid letters to determine the exact terms and duration of what's being offered.

A—Aid vs. Loans: The FAFSA will determine how much federal aid you qualify for and will be used by colleges that accept you to determine your award package. Be aware—some award letters lump together grants and loans to shrink your Cost of Attendance (COA). Loans must be repaid (with interest); grants, scholarships and fellowships do not have to be repaid.

F—Financial Considerations: Most students apply to at least five colleges, so identifying schools that are a good financial fit at the beginning will save you money on application fees—which can range from $40-$90—down the road. If you are Pell Grant-eligible, ask for an application fee waiver.

S—Start Early: Many students don't realize that most financial aid is first-come, first-served, so don't wait—file your FAFSA as close to the Oct. 1 start date as possible. If you need assistance filing, check with your local high school and colleges for FAFSA completion events in your area.

A—Assess Aid Options: Choosing a college is a big decision. By starting early, you'll have more time to fully understand your financial aid options before school and state admission deadlines. Use this time to your advantage by paying close attention to Pell Grants and other aid sources. Cost comparison tools like College Abacus and Pell Abacus (also available in Spanish) can help you identify colleges offering the best value for your unique financial situation.


Published with permission from RISMedia.

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