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Prioritize your efforts, starting with the federal government. Then turn to the private sector for additonal assistance. (Use FASTap to locate private sector funds!)

APPLY! Submit a FAFSA, even if you don't think you qualify for aid. Being rejected for federal aid is sometimes a prerequisite for private awards. Some schools require you to fill out their own application as well as a PROFILE. Be sure to find out!

Apply early! Deadlines vary, but your application for Federal Student Aid can be sent any time after Jan 1. An early application will help you get the best package possible

Contact each school. Look into fin aid possibilities at each school you are considering. Write to their fin aid office as soon as you apply for admission. Remember - applying for fin aid does not impact your chances of getting accepted.

Get to know your fin aid officer. Ask the 10 questions outlined in the FASTaiD Fin Aid section. Their help will be valuable if questions arise later on in the year.

Tell your fin aid officer about any atypical expenses. Certain allowances may be made to assist you.

Be prepared. File taxes early. You'll need information from the tax forms to complete your fin aid applications.

Trim your costs. Earn credits in advance. Depending on the college, you can trim as much as 40 percent off the cost of 4 year degree by taking college courses while in high school, by scoring well on Advanced Placement exams or by spending a year or two at a community college.

Consider loan consolidation. Borrowing smaller amounts from multiple loan programs adds complexity and can sometimes end up costing you more.

Focus on optimizing rather than maximizing your financial aid. To maximize means to get the most. To optimize means to get the best.

Take advantage of tuition prepayment discounts. Some colleges offer up to a 10% discount for early payment.

Money from grandparents should be paid in your name directly to the school. This avoids gift tax liability.

Investigate company-sponsored tuition plans. Many employers will invest in the education of their employees.

Bargain with your school. Colleges keep extra funds on hand for contingencies. Encourage them to review their offer. You may persuade them that they overlooked expenditures or your family's special circumstances. Alternatively, you may present a more generous offer from a competing college.

Reapply every year. Don't forget to apply for financial aid each and every year you are in school. Even if you receive aid during one year, you must reapply to get it for the next year. Use the Renewal FAFSA form to reapply for aid and save time. You'll either receive it at your home address or from your school.

  FASTaiD 1998 CEE       All rights reserved. Do not copy or redistribute in any form.         Mail: Editor