It's that time of year that is dreaded, second only to tax time: financial-aid application season. Here's how to keep your sanity.
1. BE ORGANIZED
Keep information for each college in a separate folder. Maintain notes of conversations and staff contact information for each college. Review college financial-aid websites, and ask how scholarships are administered at each college. Are there actual applications for scholarships, or are they awarded automatically by applying for admission? Meet application deadlines.
2. FOLLOW THE RULES
File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the correct aid year. Students starting next fall should file the 2014-2015 FAFSA. Estimate income/asset information if your tax returns aren't filed before deadlines. You can correct information later. Double-check the application for errors before sending. Know that on the form, "Your" means the student, not the parent.
Both the student and one parent must electronically sign the FAFSA with a PIN.
3. GET THE FACTS
Understand the terms and conditions of renewal of the financial aid package. "Are grants and scholarships awarded by the college renewed for all four years? What are the requirements for renewal? What are the terms and conditions of any loans offered?" asks Mary Lawyer, assistant vice president for financial aid at Siena College in upstate Loudonville.
Most importantly, "Don't rule out your student based on your income," says Amy Kahn, director of student financial services at Hofstra University in Hempstead.
Ask for help. Call reps at 800- 433-3243 for the FAFSA; 888- 697-4372 for the NYS Tuition Assistance Program.