There may be a variety of student loan programs available to you, each with different terms and benefits. Understanding the difference can help you make smarter choices as you take on student debt.
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Financial Aid 101
While the cost of college can be high, you may qualify for financial aid that can help you attend the school of your dreams. Even if some schools seem too pricy for your budget, it doesn’t mean that you can’t afford them. Most colleges and universities offer financial aid packages that can help deserving students afford a degree, regardless of their financial situation.
Two applications are the foundation of financial aid: the FAFSA and the CSS.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education administers this application. It is essential for receiving financial aid such as grants, work-study income, or low-interest loans from the federal government.
To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide information about family income, investments, savings, and other financial factors, such as your family’s tax returns from the previous year.
Once you have completed the FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report with basic information about your eligibility for financial aid. Your Student Aid Report will also list your Expected Family Contribution – the amount of money your family will be expected to pay for your education. This information will be used by colleges and universities to determine how much you qualify for grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study income.
College Scholarship Profile
After you complete the FAFSA, make sure to fill out the College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS, created by the College Board. The CSS allows you to apply for non-federal financial aid from almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs. This profile is more detailed than the FAFSA and asks about income and liabilities, including family assets, veterans’ benefits, and child support payments. It also provides a blank form for students to explain any unusual financial circumstances that could affect a family’s expected tuition contribution.
Be sure to check out these additional resources that can help you better understand your options and maximize your financial aid.
Review these helpful tips for maximizing the potential of your financial aid award.
This overview of the benefits of federal and private student loans can help you make more informed decisions about your financial aid.