SOURCE: NextStudent

January 18, 2008 11:41 ET

With College Applications at Record Numbers, Students Urged to Get Financial Aid Applications in Early

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - January 18, 2008) - Several schools are seeing a record-breaking number of college applications this year, The New York Times reported today, with the competition for open spots more fierce than ever. Since this increased demand for admission will likely translate into more demand for financial aid, for those students who need money from grants and student loans to help pay for college, the earlier they can submit their application for financial aid, the better.

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. The FAFSA is the first step in securing federal financial aid like Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, and Stafford Student Loans. Many colleges also require that students complete the FAFSA in order to qualify for state or institutional student loans and need-based scholarships.

The U.S. Department of Education will accept the FAFSA anytime between January 1 and June 30. However, some states and schools may set earlier deadlines. Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island and West Virginia, for example, require students to submit the FAFSA by March 1 of each year in order to qualify for state financial aid. Since many states and schools, especially those schools with a rolling-admissions program, may award much of their available financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, students may be able to maximize their financial aid award by filing their FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1.

Although the FAFSA requests the previous year's tax information, it's not necessary for dependent students to wait for their parents to receive their W-2s or file their taxes to complete the FAFSA. The Department of Education allows students and their parents to estimate their income and taxes on the form and adjust the figures later if necessary.

As a guide for those students and families who will be relying on grants, scholarships, and parent and student loans to help pay for college, NextStudent, a leading Phoenix-based education funding company, recommends that new and returning undergraduate and graduate students take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Pick up a copy of the 2008-09 FAFSA from their high school counselor or financial aid office, or download and print a 2008-09 FAFSA-on-the-Web worksheet.
  • Gather the required documentation (W-2s, taxes, bank statements, etc.).
  • Complete an estimated tax return for 2007.
  • Complete and submit the 2008-09 FAFSA either online or by mail. Students can apply for a PIN from the FAFSA website in order to "sign" their FAFSA electronically.

About four to six weeks after submitting their FAFSA, students will receive their Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizing their FAFSA information. The SAR will include an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount a student and her or his family is expected to pay toward college.

Students who have trouble meeting their EFC may be able to get the additional funds they need from non-need-based college loans, such as PLUS loans and unsubsidized Stafford student loans. If their education-related costs exceed their available federal financial aid, students may also be able to get the financial assistance they need from private student loans. However, since federal student loans generally offer more attractive terms than private student loans, students and their parents should always look into their federal financing options first.

About NextStudent

NextStudent, Federal Lender Code 834051, is dedicated to helping students and their families find affordable ways to pay for college. NextStudent offers one-on-one education finance counseling and has a portfolio of highly competitive education finance products and services, including a free online scholarship search engine, federally guaranteed parent and student loans, private student loans, both federal and private student loan consolidation programs, and college savings plans.

For more information about NextStudent and its student loan programs, please visit the our website at www.nextstudent.com.

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