This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

If You're Looking For College Financial Aid, Start Right Now

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Parents of college-aged children know Jan. 1 isn't just the first date of the new year -- as the "shotgun start" to the college financial aid process, it's much more important than that.

That's the day the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid form can be sent out.

In many ways, the hunt for college financial aid money is as competitive as the search for a good school. College financial aid is limited, and if you're too late to the table there's a good chance you'll miss out for your college-aged son or daughter.

That's a big miss for parents, given the average tuition for a four-year private school is about $30,000 annually and a four-year state school (for an in-state student) is almost $10,000 per year.

"The cost associated with going to college is not decreasing, so it continues to be critical for students and their families to be savvy consumers when it comes to planning for college costs," said Christine Brown, executive director of college programs at Kaplan Test Prep. "Students and parents need to be strategic and proactive in order to improve their chances of securing strong financial aid packages and scholarships."

The company urges families to do the following to score more financial aid cash:

Apply early. Kaplan says getting to the table early is just one of several steps college families have to take to maximize the amount of college financial aid money they'll earn. But it might be the most important one.

The system truly does operate on a "first-come, first-serve" basis, so get going and file your FAFSA form as soon as you can in January. As the company points out, the form takes only about 90 minutes to complete and can add thousands to your college fund.

Make scholarship-hunting a "part-time job." Kaplan says time is money on the college financing front, and the more time you put in the more money you can earn. That's true even if your son or daughter isn't a 4.0 student. "There are thousands of 'niche' scholarships available for those who aren't necessarily at the head of the class," Kaplan says. "If you invest the same amount of time and effort into finding scholarship money that you did in putting together your college application, you might be pleasantly surprised at the scholarship options available to you."

Kaplan advises starting your scholarship at your high school's guidance office, and visit to websites that help parents find scholarship money (Cappex.com is a good place to start.

Don't hesitate to negotiate. Don't assume a college's first financial aid offer is its only offer. True, FAFSA offers are non-negotiable, but colleges are open to hearing your case for more financial aid. Kaplan advises going back to the school and explain why your son or daughter is a "must-have" student, or explain why your financial circumstances may have changed (i.e., like a lost job or a divorce).

Unlike saving for retirement, finding college financial aid money has a shorter track. So lace up those running shoes and get going -- this is one race you don't want to lose.

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,960.57 -123.23 -0.72%
S&P 500 1,978.34 -9.64 -0.48%
NASDAQ 4,449.5640 -22.5440 -0.50%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs