Process for Educational Grant Applications

October 27, 2011

Financial aid for college is one of the top searches for current and potential students. Many have trouble figuring out how to pay for tuition, living expenses, books and school supplies on a shoestring budget. You can find financial aid grants through the government and your college simply by following a certain financial aid process. It is important to know and file your paperwork before any deadlines while gathering financial aid.

Every college requests that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a government funded application that assists in finding finances for college for students who qualify. These qualifications are based upon various factors, but mostly, it depends on the income of your parents if you are under 24 or are a dependent. If you are over 24 or filing independent status, then qualifications are based upon your financial income. You must prove financial need through tax documents. Other qualifications are based on military status or ethnicity. However, you cannot receive any grants through your college or government programs without filling out this application first.

Find FAFSA on the web. You have to create a pin if you have never filled out a FAFSA before. You begin the application online after you have created a pin. Your application is saved to your name, social security and birthdate. You can always go back to your FAFSA or check the status as long as you have this information and your pin. As you fill out your FAFSA, answer each question correctly. FAFSA has an extensive verification process, and you may be required to prove your gross income with tax documents or your parent's tax information. Usually, if your parents make decent wages, you will not qualify for many government grants, but you still need to fill out the application to qualify for grants and scholarships through your college.

Once you fill out your FAFSA, your financial information will be sent to your school. Your college receives a number that identifies your financial need. If your number is very low, meaning you have little to no financial contribution from yourself, guardian or parents, then you will most likely receive a sizable financial aid package that includes a Pell Grant, scholarships, fellowships and other awards. These are also based on your GPA and ethnicity.

You should be notified of your financial aid package within one or two months of completing your FAFSA. The most important part is remembering the deadline to file and filing months ahead of time. Students who wait will not receive as much aid as those who fill out the application earlier, when there is more aid available to students through your college.

Your college should send you documents that ask you to accept or decline your awards. You can accept all or partial amounts of your awards during this process. You can also add loans if you feel that your package needs some extra assistance. Your college may have also found other financial aid opportunities and added them to pay for your tuition, living expenses, books and school supplies. Every college should provide you with an estimated cost of attendance that includes all of these expenses on a yearly basis, then break down your financial aid package by semester and name the different awards.

Once you notify your school that you accept your financial aid package, you will have to wait to receive your financial aid awards at the beginning of the school year, usually within the first two weeks of school. Many students find this to be the most stressful part of financial aid, which means that it is best to save during the summer months to pay for expenses around the start of school. You will not have to pay for tuition until after you receive your financial aid, which usually automatically deducts the tuition amount from your deposited aid.

Financial aid awards are usually separated into two payments, one within the first two weeks and one a few weeks later. This is because students often drop classes during the first week of school, which changes the amount that you receive, since most awards are based on full time or part-time status. If you do drop a class, you risk losing part of your financial aid award package.

As long as you maintain your GPA and complete all of your courses, you will not have to pay back any financial aid. However, if you withdraw or go on academic probation, you also risk losing your financial aid awards. The best way to keep yourself in check is to constantly talk to your college adviser and teachers. You can receive extra help from your college's financial aid office if you find that you need to add another award or apply to different scholarships specific to your major.

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