Tips college financial aid specialists want your students to know

USA Today spoke with 3 financial aid experts who offered the following tips that can help your students:

1. Know how to budget your money: Many students enter college with no experience managing money. This can lead to high credit card debt, overspending their semester long allocation in the first month and stresses that affect school work. Parents and Counselors should talk to students in advance of them leaving for college to discuss how to budget.

2. Finish school on time: The four year degree that many parents of students obtained is now stretching out to 5 to 6 years for their kids. These extra years cost a bundle. Many colleges offer academic advising programs to help students plan to graduate in four years. It can still be done but a plan needs to be put in place early. Talk to your students about setting up a plan when they are freshman.

3. File the free application for student aid (FAFSA) and meet deadlines: Every student should file the FAFSA. Many students and their parents assume they aren’t eligible to receive aid so they don’t file. This is a mistake. Not filing can also affect grant, scholarship and work-study awards. Every student should file the FAFSA regardless of what they have heard elsewhere.

4. Look for grant and scholarship resources: Grants and scholarships, whether from federal or state sources, your college, community groups, or larger national databases, are the best form of aid since they don’t have to be repaid. Check your state grant program’s information and your school’s website to see if any other forms are required. As a general rule, the earlier students research and apply for outside scholarships, the better. Encourage your students to search out grant and scholarships.

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