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Friday, November 4, 2011

How to Increase Financial Aid Eligibility

Earning a college degree is almost a prerequisite for getting a decent job these days. However, it’s expensive. A four-year degree can easily cost in excess of $100,000. Most people don’t have that much money readily available, so in order to get a college degree they’ll have to borrow the money, or at least some of it. Fortunately there are many sources of financial aid available for college students--if you qualify. Following are a few tips on how to increase your eligibility to receive financial aid.

To determine your eligibility for financial aid, you must first learn what types of aid are available. Do a little research and find out what grants and scholarships are out there and what the qualifications are for receiving them. Grants and scholarships come in many forms and from a variety of sources. Contact your student counselor in high school or the financial aid department of your college and have them go over your options. It would also be a good idea to go online and use the Internet to conduct research. If you type in something like "college grants" or "college scholarships" into your search engine, you’ll be rewarded with a number of options. By following the links, you can discover the types of grants and scholarships that are available, and then do some follow up research to find out what the qualifications are for receiving aid. The Internet is a valuable resource for information regarding nearly anything, and grant and scholarship availability is no exception.
Don’t Rule Out Expensive Schools
Even though the cost of a college degree at a community college continues to rise, which means that the more prestigious schools undoubtedly cost considerably more, that doesn’t mean you have to rule out the expensive schools. The higher cost of those prestigious schools can actually work to your advantage. Because the tuition and associated expenses are exceedingly high, the less money you or your family are able to contribute acts in your favor, making you eligible for grants and other types of financial aid. Having a degree from one of the more prestigious schools may help you land a higher paying job once you graduate, which means you can pay back the loans quicker.
Don’t Procrastinate
Because the number of student loans, grants, and scholarships is limited, you shouldn’t procrastinate in applying for them. Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form as soon as possible after January 1 is a must. Because your federal income tax returns are needed for the form, you should also file those as early as you can. Make sure you have all the necessary information readily available before beginning to fill out the form--it will significantly slow the process if you have to continually search for your driver’s license or social security number, or look up your bank account numbers. You should also have a copy of your recent bank transactions on hand. If you’re still in high school, you should begin this process in your junior year, and even after you’ve started college, you should make sure you pay attention to the deadlines for applying for grants and loans.
Keep Good Records
If you’re applying for multiple grants, scholarships, or loans from the federal government or other sources, make sure you keep a record of which applications you’ve filled out. Be sure the information is consistent on each application so if you’re contacted by a school or organization that you’ve applied to you will be able to answer their questions truthfully and expediently.
Use Your Time Wisely
Most loan, grant, and scholarship committees base their decision not only on your financial need, but on your character as well. Use your time in high school wisely by volunteering for school activities and at civic functions. It would also be a good idea to get a part time job, because that will show the committee members that you’re industrious and willing to apply yourself, and that you’re not simply looking for a handout. Of course, you should also keep your grades up. The combination of need, civic, and personal responsibility is what the committee members are looking for.
Guest post from Pat Singer. Pat writes about accredited online colleges for

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