Finding the funds to pay for college may seem like a daunting task to any prospective student, especially if your dream school is financially out of your reach.
However, there are many options available for financing if you have a little patience, motivation and guidance. It also helps to have a check list and a few website links along the way.
To find out more about how you can finance your educational goals, use our helpful step by step guide below.
Be on the lookout for scholarships and grants, that is, college cash you won't have to pay back later.
While many of these contests are open to juniors and above, you'll want to know your options early so you don't miss any deadlines. You may be eligible to apply for some now.
Look at colleges and start making a list of where you want to apply.
Don't narrow your list based on cost yet-- many schools have need-blind admissions policies. That means whether or not you get in has nothing to do with how much financial aid you'll need to cover the costs. Besides, until you actually apply for financial aid, you don't know how much you're eligible for.
Keep your eyes peeled for more grants and scholarships. Apply for all you can.
Request applications and financial aid applications from the schools on your list. Keep them all in one place, and write down all your deadlines on one calendar.
Keep up your search for grants and scholarships.
Talk to your counselor. Bring your list of schools and all your application and financial aid questions. Ask him if he's seen any scholarships that might be right for you.
Fill out the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and apply for a Department of Education PIN. You'll need the PIN very soon.
If you're applying early action or early decision, don't forget your early financial aid paperwork, too. You'll use estimated income info for your parent(s) or guardians, and yourself if you have a job.
Find your PIN and fill out the FAFSA-- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Not only is it your ticket to student loans from the government, most schools require it. It's a good idea to submit your FAFSA online. It'll be processed faster and lessens your chance of making a mistake. The sooner you get it in after January 1, the better you chances of securing money.
If you applied early decision or early action, read over your financial aid award. Contact the school's financial aid office immediately if you have questions.
Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will show up in your inbox or mailbox. Read it carefully. It's a run-down of everything you submitted on the FAFSA. If your info is complete, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will appear in the upper right-hand corner. That's how much you and your family are expected to chip in. Schools will use the EFC to determine how much aid to give you.
Keep checking the mailbox! Admissions decision packets and financial aid awards arrive in April.
Compare your offers and choose your school. Most schools require a deposit check by May 1.
Work with your parents to finalize how you'll meet your EFC. You may need to secure a private loan from the bank if your grants/scholarships and federal, state and school loans don't cover your total college cost.
If Direct Loans (from the government) or parent PLUS loans are part of your package, you'll need to fill out a Master Promissory Note (MPN).
Pat yourself on the back. You've made it through a sea of paperwork (not to mention high school), and in the fall, you'll be going to college.