Applying for Financial Aid: 5 Things You Can Do Now

This is the time for parents of high school seniors to start thinking about applying for financial aid.

I was reminded of that today when the college counselor at my son’s high school asked me to talk to his advisory group about the FAFSA and the CSS Financial Aid Profile.

Just about everybody in the room had heard of the FAFSA, but they didn’t know what it was. Families need to complete the FAFSA to be eligible for state and federal grants. You also can’t obtain a federal student loan without filling out a FAFSA.

Here are some financial aid tips that I passed along to them:

1. Get your FAFSA PIN. A parent and the student both need a FAFSA pin before they can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

2. Circle Jan. 1 on  your calendar. That’s the first day that families can fill out the FAFSA forms for the 2010-2011 school year.

3. Print out the FAFSA worksheet. The 2010-2011 FAFSA worksheet isn’t available yet, but you can see the current one. By checking out the worksheet, you’ll know what documents you’ll need when you tackle the real FAFSA application online.

4. Register for the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE. If you are attending one of these private colleges and universities, you will have to fill out the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE. Before you can complete the form, you’ll have to register with the College Board.  Some private schools require families to fill out this document if they want to be considered for institutional money.

5. Ask about deadlines. You should check with schools to determine when their financial aid deadlines are. You don’t have to wait until Jan. 1 to begin tackling the financial aid application for the PROFILE private schools. But if you start this early, you might have to estimate your 2009 income.

Further Reading:

Three Reasons Why You Should Apply for Financial Aid

Six Ways to Get Last-Minute College Cash

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