Colleges and universities are giving away more financial aid than ever, so be aggressive and shop around. There's also government grant and loan money, work-study options, and a wealth of national and local scholarship money.
Start your search early. As tuition has increased over the last decade, 57 percent of full-time students are taking longer than four years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, according to the College Board. Graduating on time means making the most of available resources.
Report to Uncle Sam
The federal government provides your financial information to prospective schools, which determines your eligibility for aid.
Thus, the first step is to report to the government by submitting aFAFSA form, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The U.S. Department of Education will then send you your Student Aid Report, SAR, which contains a very important number: your Expected Family Contribution, EFC. This is the only number used by your school to determine aid eligibility.
Remember that schools have the last word.
Dan Madzelan, senior official from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, elaborates: “With regard to federal student aid, there is always an institution standing between our money and the individual student. The fed doesn’t cut a check and give it to students. The schools have strong roles in counseling for their financial aid.”
Financial aid officers are the central point for coordinating federal, state, and school funds. It is their responsibility to use available resources to compile your best possible aid package. Compare federal aid to your school’s aid package, and you’ll be able to better judge your school.