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Q's And A's About Financial Aid

Will your teenaged child be applying to colleges soon? Although you may be concerned about the ever-rising cost of higher education, your student may qualify for financial aid through various sources. In fact, billions of dollars are handed out each year, and more than half of full-time students get aid through grants and scholarships and roughly one-third via loans.

Here are the answers to some common questions about financial aid:

Q. Do we make too much money to qualify?

A. This is a concern for many parents, but don't assume you won't qualify for aid, which can come in many different forms. Your child's eligibility will depend on your family income, whether you have other family members, medical expenses, and other circumstances. Your chances may be better than you think.

Q. How do we apply for aid?

A. If you want to get financial help, your child needs to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal and state grants to students, work-study programs, and federal loans. You should complete the form as soon as possible after October 1 of the year before your child will enter college.

Q. Are there other forms to complete?

A. Possibly. Some schools also require students to submit the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE. And certain colleges and state agencies may request that other forms be filled out.

Q. How can I estimate the financial aid we will receive?

According to the College Board, the best way to estimate how much financial aid a college will offer you is to use the college's "net price" calculator, usually posted on its website. A net price calculator provides an estimate of your net price at the college (i.e., the cost of attendance minus the financial aid).

Q. Does my child have to be an A student to receive aid?

A. Not necessarily. While some colleges offer merit scholarships based on performance in high school, most governmental aid is need-based. But your kid can't be flunking out, either. In addition, to retain financial aid through college, your child needs to remain in good academic standing.

Q. Does applying for financial aid affect the chances of being admitted?

A. Usually not, although some schools may favor applicants who can pay the full cost of education. Normally schools base admission decisions on other factors, including academic performance and activities. But keep in mind that a school's available aid can be exhausted quickly, so have your child apply promptly.

Q. Can financial aid be revised?

A. Yes. This year's determination may not apply to future years, and colleges may review your financial aid package if your personal situation changes. If you have a pressing need for additional aid, you should let the financial aid office know.

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This article was written by a professional financial journalist for McCarthy Asset Management, Inc. and is not intended as legal or investment advice.

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