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Here are some tips to consider when you are applying for financial aid.

Fill Out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) Each Year

Colleges and universities use the information provided on the FAFSA to distribute campus- and state-based aid such as grants, scholarships and federal student loans. It is important to apply even if you do not think you will qualify since there is financial aid available that is not need based.

Submit Your FAFSA Early

You can submit your FAFSA anytime between October and June of each year you are attending college. Submit your FAFSA as early as possible to improve the chance of getting a better financial aid package while funds are plentiful.

Apply for Additional Grants and Scholarships

Remember to research grants and scholarships available through private organizations in addition to those offered by your school.

Pay Attention to Deadlines

Check the school's financial aid website for deadlines that are earlier than federal or state deadlines. This strategy helps to avoid missing out on school-administered financial aid that you may be counting on, such as grants and work-study program.

Provide Proper Documentation

Some schools and universities require additional paperwork for school-sponsored financial aid. Be sure to ask which documents are required to ensure you remain eligible for these funds.

Confirm Your Financial Aid for Future Years

If your financial aid package includes grants and scholarships that you are depending on to make tuition affordable, ask the financial aid staff whether you can expect to continue receiving the same amount of money in the future.

Look for Private Student Loans that are Certified by Your School

When schools certify a private student loan, they are ensuring the student's loan amount corresponds to the cost of attending college less any other financial aid, which helps prevent over borrowing. When a loan is disbursed through the school, it helps to make sure tuition bills get paid on time. The school sends the remaining funds to you to cover other expenses that are part of your cost of attendance such as books, supplies and room and board.

Compare Interest Rates, Loan Fees and Rewards

Private student loan interest rates are fixed or variable and may be based on your credit history and other factors. Variable interest rates can change over time, so it is important to find a loan with a low interest rate, as well as an interest rate cap to control the cost over the life of the loan.

Loan fees add to the overall cost of the loan, so look for a loan with zero fees.

Most loans come with money-saving benefits such as interest rate reductions for automatic debit payments. Simple and straightforward reward programs can end up saving you money. Carefully read the terms and conditions to ensure that you will qualify for the advertised benefits and retain them throughout the life of the loan.

Add a Cosigner

Since private student loans are credit based and most college students do not have an established credit history, adding a creditworthy cosigner may improve their chance for loan approval and they may receive a lower interest rate. Cosigners can be family members or any adult willing to make loan payments if the student cannot.

Check for Discounts When Two or More Family Members Enroll

You may be eligible for a tuition discount if more than one child or family member will both be enrolled at the same college or university.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Education.

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