Getting Ready For College

Are you getting ready for college? Is your student financial aid package looking a little thin lately? Don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to ensure that the money you are getting isn’t going to go to waste. Here is some important information to keep in mind when you are preparing for college: 

If you received an award from a scholarship or grant, be sure to fill out and send in all the appropriate paperwork by the deadlines set by the agency. Get everything in order before you submit your application for a college financial aid package. Your school will help you with this. 

Be sure to include your high school records in your financial aid package. The FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, can provide a complete list of all your high school records. Your school should have these on file, and they are used to determine whether or not you qualify for federal funding based on need and whether or not you meet the requirements for that program. 

Maintain accurate records of your income and expenses. If you drop a job or become self employed, your tax records may need to be updated. Your college financial aid package may have instructions to mail these records to the college, so make sure to keep them handy. 

Get started on the college financial aid package. You may have already received one or two grants, and you are probably aware of the general terms for the other programs. The main thing is to read over everything very carefully. You should familiarize yourself with the terms of the individual grants or scholarships. Then start to fill out the forms that will ask for your personal information and other information about your intended major and desired campus or location. 

Make sure you understand the terms of the financial aid packages for each college that you are applying to. These will vary quite a bit from college to college, but the main things to look at are the repayment options (strings or full payment), and the amount of the need-based financial 

aid. Know what your expected contribution will be and whether or not you can qualify for more than that. Sometimes it’s worth paying more to get more, especially if it means you’ll get a better education in the process. 

Be sure to complete all the papers and paperwork associated with your college financial aid package. Most financial aid is based on incomplete applications and other forms. Be organized, follow directions, and keep track of deadlines. Any papers you need to send to college must be 

sent early enough to allow them to be processed before the deadline. It’s also a good idea to contact each college regarding their particular deadlines for this type of paperwork. 

Be absolutely sure you get all the financial aid you qualify for. This is not just a fun part of college, but it’s a necessity if you want to have any chance of getting a decent college education. Keep in mind that most colleges do not automatically award financial aid, and you will need to apply for it. 

Try to find someone to help you with your application. A parent may be able to help, or maybe a friend who’s already been through the process. If you don’t know anyone who’s had a similar

experience, then consider asking a guidance counselor or a student with experience completing college applications to see who would be best able to help you. You can use the counselors contact information on the financial aid website to find someone local to apply to as well. 

College is expensive, do you have reliable transportation to get to and from college? If you have a car already, looking into an auto extended warranty can help cover costs and save you money. There are websites on the internet such as for Subarus, or any manufacturer you have. 

Be prepared to spend some time researching college financial aid. Getting ready for college shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s important to spend the time researching the options so you know you’re getting the best college possible. Spend some time online looking at scholarships and grants available, or contact your local financial aid office to ask what financial opportunities are available to you. 

Have confidence in yourself and in your ability to get through college. While you’re certainly not guaranteed to get a college degree, it’s not realistic to think you’ll automatically excel at college and get a degree without putting any effort into it. So work hard, but don’t be cocky or feel like you have to have high expectations of yourself. Even if you think you can get a college degree quickly, remember that you’ll still be working and applying for college financial aid. Remember that your parents’ efforts will be going into paying for you to get an education – don’t make your parents’ work harder than they have to!