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By Elizabeth LaScala

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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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'Tis the Season for Financial Aid in College Admissions!

Uploaded: Dec 26, 2012
It's the time of year for college-bound students and their families to prepare for the financial aid season. The online FAFSA becomes available to fill out this January 1st 2013. Since many colleges award federal and institutional aid on a first-come, first-served basis, it is important to prepare ahead of time so you can get your FAFSA filed within the first couple of weeks of January.

The FAFSA is an application that you fill out and submit online. The government and your student's college(s) use the information to determine what your family's financial aid award will be. The award is made up of one or more scholarships, grants, work-study and/or loans. The U.S. Department of Education administers the FAFSA and the 2013-2014 application becomes available at www.fafsa.ed.gov on January 1st.

If you have a student who will be starting or continuing an undergraduate college degree this coming fall, or will be starting or continuing any type of graduate degree, make sure you get your FAFSA in on time. Many colleges and universities, state and federal governments as well as private scholarship sponsors require the FAFSA in order for you to qualify for aid. At some colleges, students will not be eligible to receive merit aid unless a FAFSA is submitted. Check with individual colleges and learn each one's policy Merit aid awards are not need-based (tied to family finances), but reward good students by helping reduce the costs of college.

It is important to get started early on the FAFSA application process. Here are three important steps to add to your New Year's Resolutions:

1. Apply for a PIN (your electronic signature) for both you and your student (or retrieve an old one if you already filed a FAFSA. One parent and the student need to have a PIN to electronically sign the FAFSA.
2. Review the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet to understand what information you will need to complete FAFSA; gather that information so you have it all in one place.
3. Use income estimates (for both you and your student) for 2012; do not wait until your 2013 tax return is prepared. Estimates are acceptable and you will need to update the FAFSA when your tax returns are prepared.

In addition to the first-come, first-served advantage, there are several other good reasons for starting early and staying on top of the FAFSA. First, beginning the FAFSA early in the season makes later updates easier to manage. The government has designed an easy to use website for this purpose. Second, information on the FAFSA can easily be transferred to the PROFILE, a second application for financial aid often used by private institutions.

And now -- a bit of holiday inspiration to get you started!!

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
'Tis the season to be jolly!
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Write your FAFSA,
Prep your PROFILE,
Have your taxes done,
Yesterday!

Just as the Yule season passes,
Push "submit" and pray for aid!

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Visit www.doingcollege.com; Call (925) 891-4491 or email at elizabeth@doingcollege.com

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