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Big Test Before College: The Financial Aid Form (NY Times, 2.22.09), Part 1 February 25th, 2009 | No Comments

The teens and parents I talk to… are talking about financial aid…

And so that’s what I am paying attention to… Here’s what I have learned in scoping out a dozen books and sites on financial aid, scholarships, loans…

1. There’s A LOT of information out there! Guides come in all shapes and sizes…
Firstly, get clear about what you need/want to learn:
Do you need to understand all of the steps of the college search and selection process?
Are you able to differentiate between the various types of financial aid?
Do you have a sense of your eligibility for various types of aid?
Are you aware that private colleges often offer more aid than public universities? So just looking at schools with smaller price tags is not necessarily your best move!

Secondly, some guides are great resources and fun to read, while others are helpful and a snore! Suss out all the possibilities – from your advisor’s/guidance counselor’s office to the library to the book store – and find the guide(s) you love to read… or can live with to get the information you need.

2. Check out websites that will do some of the “magic” for you…
Once you have a sense of what types of financial aid you want to investigate, go to those sites that will match you and scholarships, grants, and loans… using more than one search engine is your best bet! {See tomorrow’s post for some ideas!}

And, remember that colleges also have their own funds and award financial aid: you will need to be digging into the information on the colleges’ websites and in their print materials too.

3. This process of paying for college is a family affair…
Creating a plan for tackling the task of understanding financial aid, scholarships, and moneysaving tax incentives needs to involve both you and your parent(s).

4. Take out the magnifying glass for all sources and check when the information was last updated.

I was reading some guides with an imprint date of 2004 and others that arrived on shelves last year… and yet books start the publishing process at least a year before the publication date. Beware, the same is true of websites… look carefully at the resources you are reading, I saw some info on a site from 2004 that had not been updated… The world changes so fast, you need to have the most current information possible!

Tomorrow I will give you a list of the resources that I have scoped out… Take heart, there are some goodies!

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