5 Great Tips for Financial Aid Applicants

By Jonathan Bales , last updated October 20, 2011

Many students rely on financial aid to help them pay for ever-increasing college costs. There are so many different types of financial aid available, and from so many sources, that applying for it can seem overwhelming at times. Read on for five great tips when applying for college financial aid.

Apply for as many scholarships as possible

Most students fail to capitalize on all of the free money sitting out there in the form of scholarships. Scholarships do not need to be repaid, so they are the best type of financial aid available. There are so many different types of scholarships available that finding ones for which you qualify is easy. The problem is that many students find a few they think are really good, then stop applying. Even if you think you are the perfect candidate for a scholarship, you still remain an underdog in your fight to win it. This is because, for the majority of scholarships, competition is stiff.

Your chances of receiving a scholarship rise, however, as you apply to more. You should never forgo quality applications in favor of a larger quantity, but submitting as many high-quality scholarships applications as possible is a very smart move. If your chances of receiving any particular scholarship are just 10%, you have a so-so chance of receiving one if you apply for 10. If you apply for 100 scholarships, on the other hand, you are almost guaranteed to be awarded one.

Apply for grants, too

Grants also do not need to be repaid, so they are just as good as scholarships. You can apply for a variety of grants at Grants.gov. The Federal government sets aside large amounts of money for education, and much of it is in the form of grants. Also search for grant information from the schools at which you plan to apply. Many schools offer grants for a variety of traits, and you never know what you might find.

Fill out the FAFSA form correctly and submit it on time

The FAFSA form is what determines your need for financial aid, so it is extremely important to your college funding. Your FAFSA form not only determines the amount of money you can receive from the government, but also from the schools at which you apply. If you do not submit your FAFSA form on time, you will miss out on all of the potential aid you could have received. Similarly, if it is filled out incorrectly and must be resent, you could miss the deadline.

Choose your school carefully

That $50,000 per year school might be your first choice, but sometimes opting for the more affordable university is a good idea. If the difference between two school is small in terms of desire to attend, but large in terms of tuition, choose the cheaper college. This will ultimately work out in your favor, as you will leave college with far less debt.

Consider taking a year off

If you are the type of person who is very motivated, you might want to consider skipping college for a year in favor of a job. You can work for a year to save up money, then attend college the following year. This is only a smart option if you truly plan on enrolling in college following a year of working.

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