Be a Financial Aid Process Ninja
Don’t pay for financial advise services, learn it on your own.
You don’t have to spend a dime for financial aid advice, just use this site. We are here to help you learn the system, the resources and apply early.
Applying for financial aid can be confusing and intimidating.
There are legitimate paid advice services out there, too, but you could get the same information yourself free right here. For example, FAFSA.com (not to be confused with the Education Department’s Web site) offers to complete and submit the FAFSA form for $79.99. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is THE form when it comes to applying for federal financial aid (see below). It can be tedious to fill out, but note the key word: free. Remember that when considering any offers that require you to pay to prepare the FAFSA for you.
Also know that using one of these fee-based services won’t necessarily increase your chance of getting funding. To make sure you get the most financial aid possible, learn about the various sources of aid and the application process. And don’t wait or delay.
“By completing the application early and in advance of state and school deadlines, students and families have a better chance of securing cheap or even free money for college,” says Martha Holler, spokesperson for Sallie Mae, which provides education loans. The sooner you can apply the better, because aid is not an infinite bucket.
Private loans are used to fill the biggest gaps left by federal programs.
To get a private loan, your student will not only need good credit, but also a creditworthy cosigner-typically a parent. Once, “good” meant a FICO score of at least 680, says Mark Kantrowitz, of FinAid.org. Now, lenders look for a score of at least 680 for the student (or no credit score at all), and 700 to 720 for the cosigner. Rates on these credit-based loans are based on the prime rate, plus a margin, which depends on the applicant’s and cosigner’s creditworthiness. Ask the financial-aid office at your student’s school whether it provides a list of preferred lenders. (If so, the list must include at least two lenders and provide detailed information about the loans.)