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Financial Aid

   
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I have a few questions. When is the best time to find financial aid, and where can I find applications for it? Also, when is the best time to tour colleges? Is it required to have an interview?
You should start investigating financial aid opportunities, particularly merit-based scholarships and grants, in the second semester of your junior year. You'll probably need to start applying in the first semester of your senior year. Of course, you should follow the specific requirements prescribed for any particular source of aid.

With regard to touring colleges, there are basically two approaches to take. One way is to visit schools in the first semester of your senior year and before you apply to find out which schools you might like to attend. Other people prefer to wait to see where they've been accepted before visiting, on the theory that there's no use in visiting a school until you know you've been accepted there. Which way you go on this depends on your budget and time constraints, but I think the second approach makes a little more sense. However, it's a personal decision and there's no right or wrong answer, except, obviously, to visit a school you're considering before you have to respond to an offer of admission.

Also, if you're applying for early decision to a school, you certainly should visit the school before you apply...since, by applying early decision, you're agreeing to accept an offer of admission should it be made. You don't want to agree to that without being sure it's the school you want to attend. As for interviews, most schools do not require them. If you want an interview you usually have to request it. If you're on the fence about a particular school, an interview could be something to consider.

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What's the chance that I will be able to get a scholarship? I come from a middle-class family, and my grades and activities are pretty good. Does how much money my family has really lower my chances?
This is an involved and confusing subject, but here’s some stuff you may not know: There are three basic kinds of financial aid (that is, money someone provides to you to go to college).

First, there are “loans,” often provided by the college you’re attending or through some state or federal program. Loans have to be paid back—boo. Second, there is “work-study.” The college you’re attending basically gives you a job and applies your earnings to your college bill.

Finally, there are “grants and scholarships”--and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two. Scholarships are generally based on merit: great grades, winning the science fair or the Miss America contest, or something along those lines. Every school will have a host of scholarships unique to that school, and some scholarships are unique to specific departments or programs within that school. But there are also general scholarships (like the Miss America gig) not associated with any particular school that you can “win” and take with you.

As for “how much money your family has,” it’s all relative. If you’re going to a school that cost $20,000 a year, you may be “needier” than if the tuition, etc. is only $3,000 a year. Some scholarships are “need-based,” meaning that if you don’t need the money, even if you win the scholarship, you may not get the money. Others give you the money, no matter what. The bottom line here is that you really need to investigate all options. The bookstore is filled with books on how to pay for college.

And by all means, contact the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re interested in applying to see what’s available. Their job is to make it possible for you to pay for it all.

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When you participate in a work-study program, do you see any of the money you make, or does it all go directly to pay your college expenses?
The money is paid to you. You are basically an employee of the college or university and receive a paycheck as you would from any employer. Of course, the financial aid office is aware of your earnings (because in all likelihood, they arranged the job for you and “found” the money to pay you). And so, these amounts are expected to offset your college expense. For example, if tuition is $10,000, your financial aid package may include $2,000 in work-study, $3,000 in grants/loans, and maybe a $500 scholarship. The college thus views you as having received $5,500 in financial aid. If you choose to spend your $2,000 earnings on something else, so be it.

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My nephew is a senior in high school who very much wants to go to Duke University. He scored 800 on his math SATs, 97th percentile in German (he was an exchange student there), and is also a tennis champion. Because he will be the third child in the family to be attending college next year, his parents assume he will have to go to a state school. He is such a bright and well-rounded student, I am encouraging him to apply to Duke. What would his chances be of ever getting enough financial aid to enable him to attend?
Whether your nephew wants to attend Duke or another highly selective school, he should not consider finances too much in the decision as to whether to apply. You seem to be confusing academic ability and financial aid, and the two are often not related. It is true that academic ability is a major factor in scholarship selection. But Duke and many other schools offer need-blind admissions, meaning that they select on the basis of ability, not financial need.

That your nephew’s parents are paying for other siblings to attend college does alter their financial picture, but if anything, it makes it easier for them to qualify for additional aid, not harder. Any expense his parents have is factored into the financial aid question to determine the student’s true need.

As we’ve mentioned before, scholarships are only one part of the financial aid package. The other parts include grants, loans, and work-study. Duke, like many schools, feels that if a person is qualified to attend, their financial situation should not stand in the way. Thus, if your nephew can demonstrate need, and has the academic credentials to gain acceptance, he should be able to work it out such that he can afford to attend. And then there are always the stories about students who get so much financial aid at private schools, that it actually ends up cheaper for them than to attend a public school. The only way to know for sure is to go through the process.

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I have twin daughters entering college this fall. Both girls have been accepted at excellent private universities with annual tuition and fees of around $25,000 per year. We are a middle-class family with some savings, but not remotely enough to finance $50,000 per year for two children. What are our chances of receiving enough financial aid to allow our daughters to go to school?
Well, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes, but the fact that you have two kids in college at the same time does factor into how much financial aid you’ll be getting. If you have applied for financial aid, then each college will respond with a package. However, if either school is not need-based, then you could find yourself with some hefty expenses from one or both schools. And as financial aid often includes loans and work study, you may also end up with significant debt. Sounds discouraging, I know, but you’ll just have to wait and see what the financial aid offers are. Hopefully, your daughters have fall-back, less expensive college choices if needed.

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When should a student begin sending in applications for scholarships? Should she wait until after being accepted somewhere, or should she begin beforehand?
Scholarships have different requirements. For example, if it were a scholarship through your place of worship, the requirements would be quite different than if it were a scholarship offered at the college you hoped to attend. The best answer I can give is to get an application and follow the rules to the letter.

P.S. Some colleges automatically apply you via your application to the scholarships for which you would qualify, simply as a matter of routine.

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I am an upcoming senior and am starting to receive applications for college. Some of the schools have an option to waive the application fee, which is sometimes as much as $100. If I am not approved, what will the school do with my application? Do they throw it out, send it back, or call me and let me know they need the money before they even process it?
As you might expect, every school has a different policy regarding waiver of the application fee. Typically, to qualify, you need to submit some kind of proof of need (perhaps a letter from your high school). Your request will then be considered, and you will be notified as to whether it has been approved. Your application will most likely sit until the fee is received if you are not approved. However, I would encourage you to understand the specific policy of the schools to which you are applying. If that information can’t be obtained through their application packets, you should contact each school directly for clarification.

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I would like to know how colleges consider outside scholarships. I have been accepted under early decision and am currently applying for various other scholarships and grants. Just wondering if the money I get from outside will chip away my parents' contribution, work-study or the grant that the college is giving me. Thanks a lot.
You may not be thanking me after this answer. If you are awarded a $10,000 scholarship for an outside source for college, colleges treat that money just like you had saved it and had intended on using it for college. Your financial aid package is based on need, and if you have $10,000 from some other source, you’re not going to need it from the college.

You see, if it cost $20,000 a year to attend Blah University, your need may be assessed at $12,000 based on your complete financial picture. This doesn’t mean that the school is going to give you $12,000 in aid and you can add that to other sources you find. If you find other money, the school is going to reassess your need and make you a lower offer.

The good news is that outside scholarships may be considerably higher than what the school is offering. Just be smart about applying for scholarships. There are too many scams out there. When in doubt, discuss this matter with the financial aid office at the school. Once accepted, most schools would really like to make it possible for you to attend. It’s a business. Treat it like such.

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I'm going to be a sophomore in high school. I have a 3.9 GPA. If I kept up this GPA for the remainder of my 3 years, how would it affect my chances of getting a scholarship? Is there any way of knowing? I haven't taken the SAT or the ACT yet, but plan to try them both before the required year. I'm worried about paying for college.
First, congratulations on your accomplishments. You’re doing a great job and should be very proud of yourself.

There are all kinds of scholarships out there, and you’ll be in the running for many of them if you keep up this kind of GPA. But many scholarships also require other things, such as for you to have certain SAT scores, recommendations, essays, and/or significant extracurriculars. So the short answer is that there is no way of knowing, but your prospects will improve the higher your grades are. Also, keep in mind that there also are need-based scholarships that you may qualify for.

There’s also the option of taking out loans. You can read more about these options for financing your college education—and begin researching scholarships for which you may want to apply—on the College Board’s website. Also, talk to your guidance counselor. Good luck!

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My daughter goes to a university in another state. She is attending this college because there is NO college in the state we live in, New Mexico, that offers her degree program. Is there some way that we can get in-state tuition to help us afford her education?

Possibly. It sounds like your daughter is already established in a college, so it might be too late to investigate in-state tuition options...unless she’s in Colorado. Colorado and New Mexico have a tuition reciprocity agreement. What this means is that Colorado accepts a limited number of students from New Mexico that can attend school there for the cost of Colorado’s in-state tuition. Wisconsin and Minnesota have a similar sort of agreement, as do other state pairs. If your daughter is not in Colorado but is willing to transfer to a school in that state that offers her particular degree program, you can check with that school to see if they would offer her in-state tuition for next year.

Also, you may want to look into the Western Undergraduate Exchange program (WUE): New Mexico is part of a collective of states that offer reduced tuition for two- and four-year degree programs in other states. Check out wue.wiche.edu.

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I'm a sophomore in high school. How soon can I go about looking for and applying for scholarships? Is it too early for me to do that, or would starting now be beneficial and mean less stress when I'm a senior?

It is never too early to start looking for scholarships. Some scholarships are even available to high school freshman and sophomores!  Even if you can't apply to all of them yet, at least you will have a good idea of what is out there by the time you can apply.

You can also begin writing application essays that answer common questions like, "What are your goals in life?" or "Where do you see yourself in ten years?" Thinking about your answers to questions like these gives you a great head start to submitting a great essay.

So where do you begin to look for scholarships? Start in your guidance office. Your guidance counselor should have great information to get you started. Look in your community; businesses and organizations offer many scholarships to local students. Normally, you would apply for scholarships offered by your college of choice, but since you are a sophomore and probably haven't chosen a college yet, you'll have to wait on that one.

Finally, spend time with your nose buried in scholarship guides. You can find them online or in your local bookstore. There are thousands of scholarships out there. You just have to find the ones you qualify for.

Check out the article "Financing your College Education" from the 2009 issue of My College Guide. Good luck!

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I am a junior in high school this year, and I have begun to look at colleges recently. I really want to attend a private school in New York, but the cost is $50,000 a year. I think I could get accepted because my grades are all A's with a few high B's, and they have sent me information before. I just don't know if paying for it will be too difficult or if I should try to go to a cheaper college. I have a part-time job and am saving almost all of my money up (although who knows how much it will really help?). My parents do not make enough money to help pay for any of my college, so I'm on my own. Should I try to get accepted into my desired college and aim for financial aid and loans, or just find a cheaper college I'm less satisfied with?
Well, my friend, I can't tell you which path to take in this hypothetical situation. That decision is yours alone, depending on what you value more: the chance to attend your dream school (assuming you're accepted) and taking on possible debt, or deciding to make the very most of a college experience at another good school with the added benefit of less financial woe. Either one is a possibility. It really depends on how much debt you are willing to take on. I'd suggest you visit several colleges in person as well to get a feel for some you like, including your top-choice school. You might find you'd be content at a few different schools.

I congratulate you on working to save up your money, whatever happens. My practical suggestion is that you apply to this school along with some others, then compare the financial aid packages you receive. If you get accepted to your desired college and happen to receive a substantial financial aid package along with it, that might help make your decision easier. If you're accepted and your package is pitifully small, well...then...again, your decision might be made easier. But yes, by all means, go ahead and apply to your top choice! You've got nothing to lose at this point. Next, apply for as many scholarships as you can handle. And don't--please don't--forget to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st of this next year.

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How can I start paying for college when I'm 15 years old?
That's a great question! I'm glad you're so committed to start saving for college early. The first best thing you can do is to get a part-time job and start saving every bit you can. Lots of students help fund themselves through saving up money early on. You can probably even collect work from your neighbors, parents' friends, and relatives if you make plain to them that you are trying to raise a certain amount of money for your college education.

The second best thing you can do is to register with a scholarship website (FastWeb.com is one of the best!) and create a scholarship profile that will match your characteristics, abilities, and interests with the best scholarships out there. Chances are, there are scholarships that you can apply for even now.

The third thing you can do is to see if there are any post-secondary enrollment options available through your nearest college campus (colleges sometimes partner with high schools to offer college courses tuition-free). The fourth thing you can do is to talk to your high school adviser and ask him or her for help and resources over the next years that you're in high school. In-person help can be priceless. You've already taken the initiative to ask for help (from me)--that's a good indicator to me that you're a resourceful person who will figure out a way to make it happen!

And the fifth thing you should do is to take the PSAT. That exam is affiliated with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which matches potential students with scholarship funds.

Bonus: For a fun and interesting read, I suggest you check out this book that has been making a buzz this admissions year: Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette.

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Is there a search engine that allows students to search for a specific list of colleges who are most generous with financial aid packages...in particular, scholarships and grants?
Good question. There's not a particular search engine, per se (although you should probably invent one before anyone else does!), but you can certainly Google or Yahoo search your way to finding a few comprehensive lists of schools who typically grant full-tuition packages to stellar students.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation also has a list of schools participating in their national scholarship program; quite a number of schools offer full tuition (or more) to National Merit Scholars. Of course, a student will need to take the PSAT to qualify at all for a National Merit scholarship, so check with your high school about that!

We have a great article on our blog along with several fantastic links about low-income students who may be able to receive tuition-free or loan-free tuition from a number of schools. Go ahead and check it out.

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My boyfriend is presently attending his second year of college. This year he has had a lot of problems with his health. The hospital stays were four to six times, for the span of a week each. The school's financial aid office is fluctuating between letting him keep financial aid or not. He filed for an appeal; however, if he is denied, he has to leave the school. My question is this: Can he go to another college and receive financial aid again?
Well, I don't know all the factors at play in this situation, so I will go with what you gave me. I think honesty is the best policy in this kind of situation. Your boyfriend's health is obviously an extenuating circumstance beyond his control (unless, of course, it is tied to intentional drug use or other self-inflicted situation...which only you know, not me).

Assuming he can't help his health problems, the best thing to continue doing is to emphasize to the school the fact that your boyfriend's health problems are beyond his control and therefore count as emergency/extenuating circumstances. Schools are more willing to work with a student in these cases. It sounds like your boyfriend is already doing that with the appeal he is filing.

So, I don't think he will necessarily be banned from future financial aid...but the best advice I can give you is to always check in advance with a school's financial aid office to see what their aid policies are in the case of potential emergency situations. Every school is a little different.

Again, being up-front and honest without giving too much information is a good rule of thumb. But you don't need to give too much unnecessary information...like the gross symptoms your boyfriend may be experiencing or anything like that! Just ask what the financial aid and other academic policies are in the case of extenuating circumstances. Again, schools will sometimes work on a case-by-case basis with individuals to help them finish their studies.

Good luck and good health to you and your significant other.

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If I apply to a college, get accepted, but they do not offer me enough financial aid to pay for full tuition, am I still obligated to attend? I am not in a financial position to pay for any of my education at this point, but I know my grades are good enough get into the college of my choice.
No, you're not obligated to attend a school that offers you acceptance if you aren't able to afford it. The only exception to this is if you apply to a school under early decision. In early decision, you basically agree to attend the school no matter what, if you are accepted. So you should not apply under early decision if you know for sure you can't pay. But there might be financial aid options you don't know about.

There are many schools around the country that offer full or almost-full tuition packages to excellent students. If you are still able to take the PSAT, I would highly recommend you do that. The PSAT is directly tied to the National Merit Scholar competition, which can match excellent students with wonderful tuition packages. Fill out and keep your eye on a FastWeb profile as well. You could win some good scholarships that might fill in some of those pesky tuition payments for you.

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I got accepted to two universities that I wanted to attend. Do I have to respond to the admission decision (like accepting the admission to an university) in order to find out how much scholarship and financial aid I will be receiving?
You shouldn't have to. Colleges typically include the financial aid package they are willing to give you along with their admission offers. Check over your packets again, and if for some reason the financial aid information isn't in there, call up the admissions or financial aid office at the school(s) and ask.

Keep in mind that now some schools have an online system you can log into in order to see if your financial aid has been processed, including how much they have awarded to you.

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I just finished my freshman year, but I'm already worried about how we're going to pay for college. I go to a very rigorous but very expensive private school, so we're currently unable to save any money for college. My grandparents are saving some for me, but I don't know how much. I have $1,000 in my bank account and plan to get a job next summer. And the thing is, sometimes my parents say things like, "When you graduate from high school I can work part-time again," which makes me worried that they're not going to help pay. I've thought about transferring to a public school, but I really feel like it's going to be worth it in the long run to go to my private school, because everyone there goes to college and almost everyone gets scholarships. what else can I do to start saving for college myself?
I think the first thing, the very first thing, you need to do is to make sure you're on the same page as your parents. It sounds like you might not be communicating about the financial expectations for college. It's probably not your place to ask about the money your grandparents are saving up, but if you're already worried about it, you might as well ask your parents what their plans are as far as helping (or not helping) you out. Probably the sooner you clarify things with them, the better it will be for all of you to work out a game plan to pay for college.

You might even want to share the thoughts you've had about transferring to a public school and see what they say. Bottom line is, don't be afraid to ask them for advice. If they can't help pay for college for you, they could at least help you figure out some ideas. I bet you'll all function better as a team, and then you won't have to be wondering about these questions alone "in the dark."

One thing you'll definitely want to do is make sure you fill out your FAFSA and apply for a Pell Grant. It's a great idea to get a job as well. Lots of students pay their own way through college. Lots of students don't have parents help them - you're not alone if that turns out to be the case. You might take opportunity now to learn the skills you need to save money in college. And yes, certainly do whatever you can to apply for scholarships and financial aid, both at the schools you're hoping to attend, and external scholarship sources. FastWeb.com is a good place to begin - it matches your skills, profile and interests with the right scholarships. Good luck.

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I am going to be an incoming freshman to an out of state university, and am having troubles coming up with enough money to pay for the high tuition price. I've had my heart set on this school for a year now and only just realized that it is going to cost more than they originally stated because they made a mistake when giving me a price estimate. I am now about $10,000 short and have filed for all the financial aid the school can offer me, including federal loans. My mom was denied the PLUS loan, and can't cosign on any private loans I apply for. I'm less than a month away from moving into the dorms and starting the term. Should I withdraw and return all of my financial aid and work for a year in that state to establish residency, or keep trying? I can't think of any more options.
Oh, yes - this is a tough time for finding money for college! You're certainly not alone in that struggle. Have you explained the situation once more to the financial aid office? If you tell them that you're out of options they might be able to work out another way to help you. Have you applied for part-time jobs in that area yet? Or for work-study jobs on campus? Colleges typically expect students to cover a little bit of their colleges costs just through working a part-time jobs themselves. Ask for any other options possible - especially work-study options - before you give up.

As to your other idea: It might be a possibility to establish residency before you start if the school allows you to defer admission - but keep in mind that usually if you don't attend college right away you lose any health insurance you currently have under your parent(s). So you might want to call up this school and ask them that question as well before you make your final decision on that.

If there is a way to wrangle up the initial year's tuition, you may also be able to stay in-state over next summer and establish residency upon your second year of college, thereby decreasing your tuition. Again, this depends on the school and the state it's located in, so check with the college to see if this is an option for you.

Good luck!

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Can I apply again to FAFSA once I'm in college?
Actually, you need to fill out the FAFSA every year you're enrolled (and not just for your first year of school) if you want to keep receiving financial aid. So I suppose the short answer is, yes, you can -- and yes, you should.

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I have a few questions considering my education. I am a 17 year-old girl who has just finished the 3rd year of a 4-year comprehensive high school. I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. My English is fairly good. My electives are Bosnian, English and computer science. My dream is to live and study in America. Unfortunately, my family isn't in financial position good enough to give me this kind of education. Financial aid or a scholarship would be the only ways for me to study in America. I am very interested in marketing. And now the questions (finally!) What are the conditions I have to fulfill to candidate for scholarship or financial aid? What test besides TOEFEL do I have to pass to study in America? Thank you in advance.
Because scholarships are mostly awarded through private entities and individual schools, there is no one answer to this question. Every scholarship will have it's own requirements attached. First, research schools you'd like to attend. Then, check out their websites and find out what scholarships are offered at those schools. You'll probably find a specific page on each school's website that discusses opportunities for international students. There, you'll find requirements for international admissions and scholarship opportunities. The process is going to take research on your part because each school has different opportunities for financial aid. Good luck with your exploration!

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My 31 year old daughter is almost finished with college. She has been going to an online college for about 2 years and the rest of her college time was spent in regular colleges. She has almost a 4.0 right now and only lacks three classes to have her B.A. She has always worked full time while in college so it has taken her a little longer to get finished. Problem is, she ran completely out of financial aid and doesn't make enough money to pay for the last three courses. She so desperately wants to finish, has been trying so hard to get it done. Any ideas where she might be able to get funding to finish college? Thanks
A student loan is one option. With only three classes left, it would be a shame not to finish. Student loans can be obtained by filing the FAFSA form available at FAFSA.gov, or by contacting your local bank to see what kinds of lending options they have. Additionally, a community scholarship might help her complete the final stretch. Have you searched your community websites and organizations for local scholarships? Sometimes scholarships take a little legwork and research, but it's worth it to obtain the support you need. Here's a helpful article from our webpage about finding scholarship opportunities on the web. My advice is to get your daughter involved with the research, so she understands the time and effort it takes to gather support. Good luck -- and don't give up!

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I am undecided which college I would like to attend. Can I start applying for student loans without picking a college?
You can fill out the FAFSA any year that you plan to enroll in college, but you won't be able to receive loan money until you enroll in a college. You may be approved, but you'll have to pick a school before the loan goes into effect. Definitely fill out the FAFSA by the deadline indicated on www.FAFSA.gov if you plan to head back to school this year. Good luck!

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If I want start college during the second semester of 2013, when do I fill out the FAFSA? Do I file the form now or next year?
You should file your FAFSA as early as possible after January 1st during the year you plan to apply. Do note that you must re-file a FAFSA every year during which you are a student in order to be considered for financial aid.

Your best move would be to check the admissions deadlines for your state, and check with the school to find out their financial aid deadlines. There should be a financial aid section on the website or in the application that indicates exactly when the FAFSA is due for that particular school.

You can find information about the FAFSA deadline in your state on http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm

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Will I lose my financial aid if I win a sweepstakes with a cash prize?
You shouldn't lose the aid you've already been granted, but when you apply each year using the FAFSA form, you will need to supply your current financial information. Winning a sweepstakes prize may change your ability to receive need-based financial aid the next time you apply. This only applies to need-based scholarships and loans which are awarded based on a student's financial situation and need for assistance.

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It has been seven years since I have attended college. I'm pretty sure at one point I was on academic probation and I received financial aid at the time. I plan on going back this year. Can I still apply for financial aid and will I be approved?
You can apply for financial aid every year by filing the FAFSA. The deadlines can be found at www.fafsa.gov. If you want to find out if you're eligible for federal student loans or your school's financial aid, you'll need to fill out this form. If you still have loans that you haven't paid off or a balance you're still carrying at a past institution, this may affect your ability to gain new financial aid. But the time that you've been out of school should not affect your eligibility. But, if you do still have unpaid loans, I don't advise taking on new loans as this can deepen your financial burden and counteract your goal to move forward with your education and career. If you want more information about the specific financial aid at the school you want to apply to, set up a meeting with an admissions counselor or financial aid officer and express your educational interests and financial needs. Good luck!

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If a college only takes fafsa, do they consider other siblings currently in college when awarding financial aid packages?
Yes, the FAFSA form asks for information about household size and the number of household members who are in college. This information will impact the financial aid decisions made by FAFSA.

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I am currently attending a community college and getting financial aid, I was wondering if I could attend an online college as well and recieve financial aid for that as well.
The answer to your question will depend on the kind of financial aid offered by both institutions and whether or not there are rules against accepting multiple forms of aid. Some schools require you to report any aid received from another school, and certainly you'll have to report it on your FAFSA for the next year. Consider, too, that one school may not accept the other school's credits toward a degree, so you'll want to make sure the credits all lead toward a final goal. It is certainly never okay to withhold information about financial aid. If you violate the rules of your scholarship or loan, you may be forced to repay your loans immediately. Be careful, and always go directly to the school to ask specific questions about their financial aid policies. Good luck!

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I am currently a tenth grader at my local high school and plan on going to college. However, due to my financial situation I cannot attend many colleges. Do you think that I should wait a year and work to earn money first, or should I take the route of student loans and possible debt after college? Both are not very enticing options, and I'm not sure how to proceed.
This is a big decision, and it really depends on your readiness for college and how you feel about taking on debt. Many students find that a year of working before college helps them grow, mature, and build the necessary time management skills to handle the workload. This could be a great idea if you're not quite sure about handling a college load or living on your own. However, if you feel ready for college and know what you want to study, taking a loan and starting college might be a good decision. Have you checked into other forms of financial aid? Check out our list of scholarship and grant resources on the site. This may help you widen your options. In terms of a year off, you'll want to decide whether you could benefit from it personally. It isn't likely that you'll be able to save enough in one year to completely avoid taking out student loans, but a year of work could help you build a financial safety net. There are also work study programs offered at many colleges and universities that allow you to earn income as a student. Check with the particular schools you're considering to find out more about these options!

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When should I fill out my FAFSA if I plan on attending college in the FAll of 2013?
You should file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Also, pay close attention to your state's FAFSA deadlines. Some states require the FAFSA to be filed in February, while others have a March deadline.

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If a person receives financial aid, how will it effect his status if a relative puts money in his name in a bank account to offer help?
Each year, you'll file a FAFSA, which is a document that outlines your financial situation. If the relative gave you the money in 2012, you'll want to report that on the FAFSA you file this year. The money doesn't affect financial aid that you've already received, but help from relatives will be a factor in future financial aid. (Most federal and state aid is need-based, whereas college scholarships and private scholarships are given based on merit and other factors. A relative offering money changes your need, but it won't affect merit-based scholarships.) Just be honest and report everything on your upcoming FAFSA. Odds are, you'll still get financial aid if you need it.

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I have been attending a university for two years. However, all the sites I've found for financial aid don't seem to cater to those who are already in school. Do you have any websites with scholarships for currently enrolled students?
Absolutely! Check out our master list of scholarships and grant resources. Many of these links will take you to essay contests and private scholarships. Surf the links and see if you can find something you are eligible for. And, try searching your own school's website. Often, there are scholarships available for current students in certain fields of study. Good luck!

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I have been accepted to my first choice college. I have received academic scholarships from the school and have qualified for some financial aid (mostly loans). For months, I was led to believe that I would get an athletic scholarship also. Later, I was told that the school did not have any money left. My EFC is a lot more than my parents can afford to pay. I have contacted the school for additional help, but they cannot do anything else. I really want to go to this school. I am applying for outside scholarships. What can I do if I still do not know how I will pay for the school by the school's deposit deadline? Where can I can get a good interest rate on other types of loans? Should I try to defer enrollment to raise more funds and apply for more scholarships?
First, congratulations on your acceptance. I'm sorry to hear about your situation with the athletic scholarship.This is a situation many find themselves in, and deferring is one option. This would give you time to seek other funding options, work to raise money for college, and reapply for the scholarship. In terms of loans, interest rates for student loans are among the lowest you can find. You might try a personal loan, which could help cover some of the amount. These can be researched at your bank or financial institution's website or office. Check out our article on finding scholarships, as well. There may be some opportunities you have not pursued. Good luck! If you do take out loans, make sure you sit down and create a plan to pay off the loans after graduation. If you decide to defer, remember -- you'll have plenty of opportunity to work toward the goal over the next year, and you could gain some work experience as well.

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