Along with getting married, starting a family, and purchasing a home, obtaining a college degree is considered by many individuals to be part of the classic American dream. These days, many economists agree that with current high jobless rates, pursuing a college degree is essential for success in the workforce. In some cases, however, high tuition costs mean that would-be students are prohibited from enrollment in the institution of their choice. Fortunately, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, provides financial assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to attend college. In addition to discussing the basics of the FAFSA application process, this article also discusses methods of college preparation, loan obtainment, and loan repayment. Individuals who are interested in additional information should visit Student Aid on the Web, found on the bottom of the page.
Prepare for College
Most experts agree that it is never too early to start preparing for college. Obtaining admission to a high-quality school means that students must not only get good grades during middle and high school, but also show evidence of community involvement, extra-curricular participation, and in many cases, leadership abilities. During the high school years, college-bound students should begin researching colleges, universities, and trade schools of interest, both in person and over the phone or internet, to further enhance knowledge. Finally, participation in aptitude tests, such as the ACT or SAT, is essential for those interested in college enrollment. After obtaining scores for such aptitude tests, it is time to choose some schools you are interested in and apply for admission.
Get Money for College
Once students obtain acceptance to the university, college, or trade school of their choice, they must determine how tuition payments will be made. According to one federal report, up to two-thirds of American students receive federal aid each year. To qualify for financial aid, students must be a U.S. citizen, national, or eligible non-citizen, possess a Social Security number and high school diploma or GED, and be registered with the U.S. Selective Services if male and between the ages of 18 and 25. In addition, students must agree to use aid only for educational purposes, be free from default on student loans, and maintain other specific legal requirements. Student assets, income, and dependency also play a role in determining eligibility.
While there are a number of different types of financial aid currently available for students, the most common include Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, and Federal Work-Study Programs. Students who are interested in obtaining any of these types of financial aid can submit their FAFSA application as early as the first day of January in the year college enrollment is scheduled to begin, through the following website: Student Aid on the Web. After submission of the application, students will receive a Student Aid Report, which contains a summary of FAFSA answers. After confirmation is made, the Student Aid Report is then sent to the state and federal agencies responsible for distributing financial aid. Students should remember that FAFSA applications are typically only active for a period of 18-months, after which time re-application is required.
Repay Your Loans
Upon graduation, students must begin loan repayment. Fortunately, immediate repayment is not required—instead students traditionally have up to six to nine months to begin reimbursement, depending on the specific type of loan. While some students may be able pay loans back in one lump sum, others will rely on payment plans to meet their requirements. In many cases, monthly plans are available, though interest rates and fees may vary considerably. Recent graduates should be aware that in some cases, loan forgiveness is available upon employment with government or public service agencies. Postponing repayment should never be done, as it cannot only negatively affect credit scores, but can also lead to wage garnishment or future financial aid ineligibility. To avoid default status, individuals who have difficulty making loan repayments should request a change to their repayment plan, a deferment, or forbearance. By following these channels, graduates can meet all financial responsibilities, without causing undue stress or worry.
- Student Aid on the Web
- Federal Student Aid
- How to Apply for Financial Aid
- Financial Aid Overview
- The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
- Student Loan Repayment Strategies
- Student Loan Repayment Strategies for Graduate Students
- Create Your Student Loan Repayment Strategy in 3 Steps
- Student Loans: Student Loan Repayment
- Student Loan Repayment Strategies for Medical Students
- Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates
- Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans
- Higher Education Commission: Preparing for College
- Harvard College: Office of Admissions—Preparing for College
- Preparing for College—Introduction
- Prepare for College
- Guide for Parents: Ten Steps to Prepare Your Child for College
- Undergraduate Admission: Preparing by Grade
- Information to Help Students Prepare for College
- Preparing for College: Timeline
- Preparing Your Child to Succeed in American Education
- College Aptitude Tests
- Adult Education
- Preparing for the Transition to College for a Student with ASD
- DCPS Partners with Local Non-Profits to Prepare Students for College and Career
- National Center for Learning Disabilities: Preparing for College
- Overcoming Obstacles to Preparing for College: Perspectives from a Rural Upward Bound Program
- Smart Saving for College—Buy Better Degrees
- College Savings Plans Network
- Financial Aid Tips
- Filing the FAFSA Adds Up to $$ for College
- FAFSA Day—February 18, 2012
- What is the FAFSA?
- FAFSA: Essentials and Updates
- Student Financial Assistance: FAFSA
- Tips for Completing the FAFSA
- The FAFSA: General Information
- Financial Aid: FAFSA Help
- A FAFSA Walk-Through
- Complete the FAFSA