* deadlines may vary dramatically but whatever they are, stick to them. don\u2019t lose the
opportunity to qualify for aid simply because you procrastinated. keep financial aid
deadlines on the family calendar, in the kitchen, or in your date book. some colleges
operate on a first-come, first-served basis, particularly those that make rolling decisions,
so keep that in mind if your son or daughter is a procrastinator by nature. carefully
investigate what requirements there are for early decision or early action applications
* keep photocopies/hard copies of all submitted materials marked with dates sent. that
way if anything is lost in the mail, misdirected through cyberspace, misplaced at the
college office (yes, they are human), you can replace it right away.
* maintain a file for each aid application. hold on to all correspondence. print and file all
e-mail messages. keep a record of phone calls (names and dates, too). happily, many
offices have toll-free numbers and calling hours in the evening and on weekends. while
some colleges will send reminders if any piece of the application is missing, many will
not. however, more and more colleges are making it possible to log onto their web sites
with a pin number to determine if admission or financial aid documents have not arrived.
* try to file your federal tax forms early, if possible. the fafsa and profile\u2122 refer to the
1040 form and, if actual figures are available, the form will be more accurate, and you
won\u2019t need to update it later. if you cannot file early, you should use your best estimates.
for example, the last pay stub for the previous year will show what your total wages were.
you should not wait to fill out the fafsa or profile\u2122 for tax forms that will be completed
later than the application is due. financial aid officers can update estimates electronically
with actual figures, once available.
* follow directions carefully. if you complete forms by hand, rather than computer, be
certain that the writing is neat and clear on the applications and that each question is
answered as carefully and completely as possible. the forms give very specific
instructions. for your own purposes, underline deadlines and very important points.
* make an appointment to meet with a financial aid officer to discuss special
circumstances. offices often schedule telephone visits or will correspond via e-mail. be
certain to write down the name of your contact, and stay in touch when you need
questions answered. keep toll-free numbers and web sites handy.
* make certain that your son or daughter\u2019s name and social security number (or the id
number assigned by a particular college) is on every form and document. be consistent
and use formal names, not nicknames. also, if your last name is different than that of your
child, make sure your name and relationship is listed clearly on correspondence.
* if you need to revise information originally submitted to the federal processor, these
revisions should be made on the sar. the department of education will send the sar to you
as soon as a week after you file the fafsa electronically. if you have a change to make in
your initial application, it needs to be made on the sar. follow css\u2019s own correction
procedure for making changes on the profile\u2122.
* follow-up. make sure that you, as a parent, have done your part of the job and check up
on your child\u2019s responsibilities. keep in mind that procrastination may jeopardize your
chance of receiving aid. check with the financial aid office and find out if anything is
missing from your folder. warning: incomplete folders don\u2019t get considered at all at many
* put plenty of time into the financial aid process. students often spend months\u2014and
sometimes even years\u2014corresponding with an admission office to get an application
filed and completed. usually, the time spent on the financial aid application is a matter of
weeks. both application processes are important. keep that in mind and spend adequate
time preparing both sets of forms. consider the time spent as an investment. a director of
financial aid remembers, \u201ca parent once told me he paid his son minimum wage to
research and apply for scholarships and financial aid in order to reinforce the importance
of the financial commitment.\u201d if you invest 40 hours in the financial aid process and your
child is awarded $15,000 worth of aid, that\u2019s a salary of $375 per hour!
* don\u2019t wait until after you receive an admission decision before applying for financial aid. students sometimes think that they won\u2019t be admitted so they don\u2019t bother to apply for aid or they hope that by not applying for aid they may be enhancing their chances of admission. if you think that your family might need aid, apply on time. if you wait until too late in the admission cycle, you may be disqualifying your child only on the basis of timing.
remember, apply for aid now, even if you think you won\u2019t need it until your child\u2019s
second or third year of college. some colleges will not consider an aid application from a
student who didn\u2019t apply at the time of admission until the student has earned two years
worth of credit.
* upperclassmen are generally expected to contribute more in self-help\u2014loan and federal work-study. also, expected summer contributions rise from freshman year to senior year. be certain to find out what the expectations will be for your child.
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