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When students ask an adviser, “How do I get financial aid?” they typically get the response, “Fill out the FAFSA."
The FAFSA (or Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is an essential step in getting financial aid, but it’s a step near the end of your journey. You’ll get a lot better financial aid if you start planning early, long before the middle of your senior year.
Planning for Good Financial Aid
Planning for college doesn’t just mean putting money in a 529 Plan, Individual Development Account or other savings plan – it means having a time-tested and thought-out plan for getting need-based and merit-based aid.
Filling out the FAFSA Accurately and On Time
As you can see there are plenty of steps to getting better financial aid before you get to the FAFSA. By following the above steps, you improve your chances of getting better merit-based aid. The FAFSA, and many other private, state, and college forms focus on need-based aid.
Once your FAFSA is complete and submitted, you’ll have to review the information, consider college financial aid offers, and possibly appeal them.
In reality, the FAFSA is only the beginning of the end of a long financial aid process.
So don’t fall for that old idea that the FAFSA is the key to good financial aid; or that if you simply fill that out you’ll be all set. You need to plan for good financial aid, and plan as early as possible. It’s why students starting in 8th grade ahould construct good college applications based on great transcripts. It’s why high school students need impressive SAT and ACT scores and so much more. And why they need the best financial aid information possible, as well as accurate college-cost estimates, and a list of top financial aid colleges,
Because filling out the FAFSA isn’t your only step; it’s one step on a very long journey.
For more on how RSC incorporates money into our college prep program, see The AM/PM Plan: Motivation and Money, From College Prep to College Bound in 4 Quick Steps.
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