Financial Aid Offices and Forms
Your college's financial aid office will be one of the first to contact you after you are accepted to the school. Pay close attention to all communication from this office and be certain that you return all forms, filled out completely, by the deadlines indicated. No matter how thorough and vigilant you are, you'll surely have some questions about financial aid and the many forms you receive. Fortunately, you have a staff of experts at your disposal: your school's financial aid officers.
The financial aid officers at your school have an excellent understanding of student needs, federal regulations, and the paperwork necessary to receive financial aid. They have heard every question imaginable and understand that each student's situation may be unique. Financial aid officers also know of helpful resources available to students, including many outside of the college. Keep the financial aid office phone number and web address in your phone or laptop and try to communicate with the same person each time you make contact. Your financial aid officer will usually remember your past conversations and can thus more accurately answer your new questions.
A common misconception is that you must be either very smart or very poor in order to receive financial aid. This is not even close to the truth. A variety of aid options exists for students of all levels of academic achievement and economic status. Search diligently and you will find something designed for someone in your situation.
Every student applying for financial aid must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online early in the calendar year. The FAFSA form standardizes much of the information colleges use to determine a student's expected family contribution and need. In addition, by late spring you must provide your school with a signed copy of your tax return, as well as your parents' tax returns. If your parents are separated or you have other special circumstances, get in touch with your financial aid officer to find out what forms are needed from each person.
Every aid application will require paperwork. Be certain that you keep copies of all the forms you fill out so that you can refer to them later. Keeping applications in separate paper or computer folders may help you find items quickly when you are on the phone asking questions or trying to figure out how much aid you have secured.