Student Aid Basics: 10 Tips

  1. Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) regardless of your family’s economic status. Nearly everyone who applies receives aid of some sort, regardless of their credit history.
  2. Renew your FAFSA every year. Even if you did not qualify for much student aid last year, changes in family income and other factors can affect your eligibility.
  3. Apply for student aid as early as possible. Many types of student aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Apply too late, and you’ll have fewer aid options.
  4. Always apply for “free” student aid—grants and scholarships—first. You do not need to pay back “free” student aid as long as you meet all of the obligations.
  5. Beware of student aid offers that seem “too good to be true.” Student aid scams offer the “promise” of funding—for a small fee—and then steal your money. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for student aid.
  6. Educate yourself about the different types of loans. You have to pay loans back (with interest), so it’s important that you select the best one for your situation.
  7. Compare apples to apples when you look at the cost of education. School costs go beyond just tuition and books. Don’t forget about the costs of transportation and social activities. Consider this as you compare your student aid packages.
  8. Don’t let tuition costs prevent you from applying to a college you want to go to.Higher tuition costs may make you eligible for more student aid. Your family’s ability to pay—as determined by the FAFSA—does not change depending on where you apply.
  9. Get to know the people in your Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office is a great source of information about scholarships, federal aid, and school-specific programs that you may qualify for.
  10. Visit explains student aid in a practical and easy-to-understand way. It’s an excellent resource for money management tips, too.