Financing college tuition can be costly. Due to exponentially rising tuition costs, millennial and gen-z students have accrued an unprecedented amount of student debt. If you’re applying for college, you’ve likely noticed that dorm living expenses, meal plan costs, and student fees are on a similar steady incline, deterring aspiring college students from filling out their applications.

As a financially-struggling soon-to-be college student, you may be wondering how you could afford a college degree in these trying times. Luckily, there’s some good news. With financial aid, you can even gain admission to esteemed universities you thought were out of reach.

What is financial aid? It’s any financial assistance offered to help you pay college-related expenses and fees. Financial aid could take the form of scholarships, grants, loans, or part-time programs. Typically, the federal government, the state, learning institutions, and private organizations offer financial aid to eligible candidates, such as students who meet designated GPA requirements or those who fall within a specific tax bracket.

Paying for school fees isn’t always as easy as going online and pressing a button to pay your tuition fees. It involves scrutinizing your family’s finances and exploring opportunities for financial aid. Unfortunately, finding financial aid is a nerve-wracking rite of passage for those young applicants lacking the experience necessary. However, resources like CollegeData provide soon-to-be college students with vital information that can help you navigate yearly tuition payments.

After undergoing a mind-boggling college application, the next step is seeking financial aid. Sadly, it’s not a simple task. However, there are some helpful tips you can follow to simplify the process.

Observe deadlines

Pay close attention to deadlines. It will go a long way in ensuring you capitalize on every opportunity for financial aid available. When applying for federal grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline is June 30th each year. Applications are open by Oct 1 of the school year. So, you have a significant amount of time to fill out the application.

Ensure that you observe stipulated deadlines set by the respective states, colleges, and private organizations. Late application means you risk receiving minimal financial aid or losing financial aid altogether.

Filing your taxes

When filling out your FAFSA application, record your previous year’s income estimates in the designated fields. Why last year’s estimates? By the time you submit the FAFSA application, you won’t have filed your current year taxes.

However, indicate in your application that you intend to file your taxes by the set deadline. FAFSA will even send you a reminder to update your form with correct figures.

Be a good planner

With many deadlines to observe, you’ll need to organize your calendar appropriately. Make sure to submit your applications early enough to increase your chances of acceptance. Unfortunately, many students wait until the deadline month to complete their applications. This last-minute rush is not advisable, as these private institutions may award financial aid to the first group of applicants.

It’s also in your best interest to apply early, as there are more funds to distribute at the beginning of the financial aid application season. This phenomenon reigns especially true for college grants. Undoubtedly, those in the frontline stand a better chance to earn financial aid that can fund their college education.

Evaluate financial aid options

You could be lucky enough to receive financial aid from every institution you applied. Should you rack in cash and accept all of their offers?

Firstly, you should evaluate the terms of the financial aid. Typically, college grants and scholarships are considered no-strings-attached funding. After graduation, you won’t have to pay back any grant money or scholarship money you received. However, if you apply for a student loan, you will need to make monthly payments for an extended period.

Pick the option that makes the most financial sense if forced to choose between financial aid options. If you can combine multiple forms of financial aid to pay tuition fees, be sure to do so.

Appeal for more aid

It is common to receive financial aid that doesn’t cover the entire cost of college tuition. Many students don’t know that they can appeal and request additional financial assistance. If you’ve received a grant and can’t apply for other forms of financial aid, this is your best option. However, it’s best to have legitimate reasons for your request, as not every appeal will be considered.

To earn more money, prove that your financial circumstances have changed since you applied. Changes in financial circumstances can include job loss, divorce or death in the family, unexpected medical expenses, costly car accidents, etc.

You’ll need to follow the specific college appeal procedure to expedite the process.

Consider students loans to be a final resort

Yes, it is easier to qualify for student loans, but college students should relegate these loans to the bottom of their potential financial aid options list. Why? With fluctuating interest rates, repayment could be expensive. If you borrow a dollar today, you’ll have to pay two dollars tomorrow. With this in mind, only take out a loan if it’s absolutely necessary.

In summary

You should also have a few more tips and tricks in your back pocket when submitting your financial aid applications. These are:

  • Your current assets and your most recent income will determine the amount of aid you receive
  • Your student’s income matters more than a parent’s when applying for financial aid
  • In a divorce situation, the income of the custodial parent is of the most significant importance
  • Even high salary earners can qualify for financial aid packages

Are you a student from a low-income family and wondering how you’ll afford college tuition? Financial aid could bring your dream to fruition. Even with skyrocketing college tuition costs, financial assistance options scoots college admission within reach for many students. Just make sure to fill out the application accurately and on time.

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