Thinking about college can be a stressful time for any high school senior. They have so much to worry about like test scores, community service hours and acceptance letters. What’s even more stressful? The financial aid process! There’s a lot to remember when preparing to pay for school so we created a list of financial aid dos and don’ts to help take some of the weight off. 

DO Fill out your FAFSA and do your research!

The first step in finding out about what kind of money is out there for you is filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s always best to start early and do some extensive research on all financial aid opportunities. Be sure to take note of all deadlines and requirements to ensure you get all the financial aid money you need.

DON’T Worry about your current financial situation.

It is a common misconception that some students are not entitled to any financial aid money because their parents make too much or don’t make enough. There are millions of dollars that go unclaimed every year because of this. There is no income cut-off for financial aid. There are also other factors that are taken into consideration when determining how much aid you qualify for like the size of your family. Your FAFSA will tell you about all of the aid you qualify for. There’s something out there for everyone. 

DO Stay in contact with your guidance counselor.

Your guidance counselor will have the inside scoop to all things college. It’s a great idea to check in with your guidance counselor frequently to keep them abreast on your postsecondary plans. They will be able to provide you with financial aid information that could be beneficial to you during the application process.

DON’T Pay anybody when applying for financial aid!

It is very easy for scammers to take advantage of vulnerable high school seniors when it’s time to apply for college; especially those that may exhibit desperate need for financial aid. You should never be asked to pay to apply for financial aid if it’s coming from a reputable source. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re unsure about whether or not something is legitimate, run it by your guidance counselor for confirmation and be sure to report any suspicious online activity or phone calls. 

DO Rack up on free money BEFORE taking out loans.

Make sure you do your research on all the endless grant and scholarship opportunities before taking out loans. Remember, loans have to be paid back; grants and scholarship do not have to be paid back as long as you maintain the necessary requirements. We’ll learn about the differences next week. If you do decide to take out loans, explore the low interest options so you don’t have as much to pay back after you graduate. 

DON’T Give out any personal information!

The only time you should ever have to put in any personal information is when you’re filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Never provide things like your social security number or identification number on sites you have never heard of. Always remember to alert your parents and guidance counselor about suspicious websites.

DO Check with your local colleges and universities.

Sometimes, free money is right in your own backyard. Well, not literally speaking. Check with your local college or university to see if they offer and scholarships, grants or admission incentives to students from surrounding high schools that decide to attend their school. Keep in mind that these opportunities are not guaranteed to be there but it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

DON’T Call the school’s financial aid office FIRST.

Let’s be clear. It is okay to call the school’s financial aid office, however if you have any questions about a specific school, visit their website and search for a “frequently asked questions (FAQ)” page. You’d be surprised at how much information you can find online. If you are still unsure about the financial aid process, do not hesitate to give them a call. A representative would be happy to assist you. 

Now that you know how to get started, what are you waiting for? Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor TODAY! Don’t forget to visit the Office of Student Financial Assistance for more financial aid opportunities.

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