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Paying for College in a Post-Credit World

FAFSA and more: As you pull together sources of college funding, it's important to ensure that you've maximized the amount of federal aid for which you are eligible. By filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, online, you'll receive help from the system and the opportunity to chat with a live support agent. Most importantly, the paperwork will be processed more quickly, meaning you'll find out sooner, rather than later, how much federal aid you may receive or if you made a mistake that needs fixing.

Your college also may have its own set of financial aid forms and requirements. Many private institutions, for example, use the CSS Profile to calculate financial need. The CSS uses different criteria than FAFSA for determining which assets, such as home equity, are considered when setting aid packages. Errors in either the FAFSA or the CSS Profile can delay or reduce the amount of aid you qualify to receive. Consider consulting your financial adviser for help in filing the forms accurately.

Scholarships and work study: Not all financial aid must be repaid. Institutions ranging from your college to the local chamber of commerce to organizations devoted to people from a certain ethnic background offer hundreds of thousands of scholarships each year. These range from a few thousand dollars a year up to full payment for tuition, room and board, and books. Search for scholarships via FastWeb Scholarship Search.

You may also want to consider having your student contribute to the cost of his or her education by working on campus. The federal Work-Study program helps students pay for education costs by providing part-time employment opportunities at participating institutions. To apply, just check the appropriate box on the FAFSA form.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.
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