You Don’t Need to Pay for College Financial Aid Information

Finding financial aid for school can be hard work, but don’t be intimidated! Free, reliable help is available.

First, go online to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) site. Not only is this application required by federal aid programs, a great many other sources of aid, private and public, utilize it for processing requests.

Filling out and submitting this form is free. All you need are your or your parents’ 2013 tax information.  Be sure to use the web address. Many sites charge a fee for “professional FAFSA help” but this is often an unnecessary expense and may put your personal financial information at risk.

To be considered for Idaho education grants, your FAFSA has to be in by March 1. The sooner you submit the better – distribution of some financial aid begins shortly after Jan. 1 to the earliest eligible applicants and may run out well before the absolute deadline of June 30. If you’re not sure of your tax figures you can estimate them, submit your FAFSA, then update them later.

Another important free source of financial aid information is your high school’s guidance or career counselor. Get to know your counselor – he or she can be a great source of all kinds of scholarship, college, loan and grant information.

For an explanation of the different types of financial aid, help with determining how much you will need and information on thousands of sources of financial aid, use the Department of Labor’s Idaho Career Information System (CIS). Read all about the process of paying for school,  get a checklist  of steps to take, and create a list of scholarships and other financial aid for which you might qualify.

The site’s free financial aid sort asks detailed questions about you and your plans to help generate the closest matches possible and provides up-to-date details and the appropriateness of each award you select.

Stay up-to-date on scholarships managed by the office of the Idaho State Board of Education by visiting its website, which links to the financial aid offices at Idaho’s two- and four-year colleges and universities.

A growing number of private scholarship search businesses offer, for a fee, to help you find financial aid for yourself or your student. Don’t pay for information before you see what’s available to you for free. Many of these businesses profess to have inside information on scholarship money that goes unclaimed every year, or offer a money-back guarantee that you will be successful in receive aid. Instead you should know these services may:

  • Offer you any type of refund ONLY if you receive rejection notices from every source on your list. If the source is out of operation or otherwise invalid, you are out of money.
  • Give you outdated information. Deadlines, contact people and criteria change from year to year, and you don’t want to waste time putting together applications, letters and essays.
  • Promise you are eligible for every scholarship on your customized list. A set of replies to simple questions can’t weed out all aid sources that do not pertain to you.

It shouldn’t cost you a lot of money to find money. Be successful in your search for scholarships and financial aid by using the free information and tools available to the public.

– Terry Mocettini, technical & support materials coordinator, Career Information System