Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Expert's Take on Financial Aid - with Special Guest Jodi Okun - part 1

As students get back into the swing of their studies following the Christmas break - now is also the time for students to get into the swing of things in regards to financial aid for the 2012-13 school year. Whether you are a high school senior getting ready to head off to college, or a college student looking to cut down the cost of your next year, now is the time to be filling out forms - especially one in particular if you live in the United States.
I had the opportunity recently to ask Jodi Okun, the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors (see link on the side), some questions about financial aid. For U.S. students. the FAFSA form is a very important document. It sets you up for all kinds of federal, state and private funding. Jodi warns that errors or omissions on FAFSA could be costly.

A mistake on your FAFSA can delay processing of your application by up to three weeks. One in seven FAFSA forms are returned due to errors. It could happen to you!
To avoid errors, get started early. Use the Pre-Application Worksheet located on the FAFSA home page to insure you've gathered all the necessary information. Be sure to proofread your application before you submit it. Fill it out right the first time and you'll have your financial aid letter in no time.
As with all forms and applications, make sure you read the instructions and questions carefully.

Besides FAFSA, this is also the time of year when things really gear up in the scholarship world. Jodi gives some tips on how to be on top of your game when it comes to scholarship season.

Begin reviewing your finances. Take an hour or two to get a sense of where you are and how your finances will be at the end of this year.
Take a look at college costs and try out some of the new cost calculators on each college website.
Start writing scholarship essays. Scholarships season really begins in earnest in January of each year, and the sooner you begin to hunt down scholarships and fill out applications the easier it will be to apply for the next one. Research which scholarships are a fit for you, go to the website and download their applications.
Set scholarship goals. Try to apply for one scholarship each weekend. Set up a calendar so you don't miss any deadlines.
Begin to get familiar with college deadline dates and identify what information colleges request.

In part two of my interview with Financial Aid expert Jodi Okun tomorrow – a look at the benefits, besides money, of scholarships and why financial aid is so important.

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