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First Year Financials

July 25, 2012

Checkbook

Anticipating your first year at college is exciting!  What’s not so exciting, of course, is anticipating paying for it.  Unfortunately, college educations just don’t come cheap.  Because of this, it’s important to get a firm hold on your financing plans from the get-go.  Know your options, plan strategies for success, and start doing all this for your very first year of college.

FAFSA
FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  You can get considered for federal grants and loans, but a lot of other financial aid opportunities use the FAFSA too.  Basically, filling out this application is essential for financial aid opportunities (and it’s free!).  It can be a little time consuming, so be sure to have any documents (like tax forms) that you’ll need to reference on hand.  This will make it easier for you to get through the application.  Remember to check over everything before you submit it.  Visit their webpage, and get started now!

Look further
When exploring your options for financial aid, do research in the following areas: federal, state, school-specific, and private.  Federal aid is offered through the FASFA application, but when looking for aid from your particular state, college, or a private organization, you’ll have to do a bit of extra research.  Look up financial aid opportunities available for your state, and explore your school’s website.

Every school is a little different, so it’s important that you visit your college’s financial aid webpage, or even visit the financial aid office in person.  You’ll find more information about your school’s costs, so you’ll know exactly what your wallet is up against.  You can also find out if they can offer any special opportunities or additional support to help with your financing.

Find out if you’re eligible for work study.  If so, you can get part-time employment through your college.  With work study, you can work right on campus, get flexible hours, and earn money to help with college expenses.

You should also plan on devoting some time to searching the web for a much wider variety of financial aid opportunities.  These days, there are all kinds of scholarships available, many of them unrelated to academic grades.  Private scholarships can be based on your interests, activities, and passions.  Check out online scholarship databases like scholarships.com to get you started.

Communication
However you’re planning on financing your college tuition, communication is going to be vital during the process.  If your parents are going to fund or help fund your education, sit down with them and discuss it so that you’re in the loop.  It’s important for you to be well-informed about your tuition payments and financial aid.  For an example, you’ll definitely want to know about loans that will eventually have to be paid off.  Discuss plans on how you’ll begin to work off those loans in the future.  Make a savings plan, or contribute to one you may already have.  Discuss budgeting with your family— for both your tuition, and your everyday living expenses.

Try not to let the overwhelming cost of college overwhelm you.  There are a lot of ways to help better finance your education.  The sooner you get started in researching and planning, the better, so that you’ll be off to a great start in financing your first year of college.  Be organized, be patient, and remember: breathe!

For additional information on all things financial aid, check out the website for NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators).

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