3 Financial Aid Windfalls for College Students

It’s not easy, but there are some effective, if well-hidden, ways for college students to qualify for financial aid – even in a recessionary environment where credit is tighter than a college quarterback’s spiral.

Whether it’s via lower student loan interest or through beefier grants or scholarships, here’s a road map to some serious student financial aid treasures.

First, know the odds. Most of the financial aid going out to college students is set aside for families that earn less than $50,000 a year. So, ironically enough, if your family makes more than that, college financial aid can be an uphill climb.

That said, even families that earn six figures or higher can get financial help for their college-bound teenager – if you’re tenacious about it. Start with these steps:

Fill out a FAFSA. To maximize your aid possibilities, no matter what your financial income, make sure to complete a FAFSA form. It’s the mothership for financial aid. As the FAFSA Web site states, “The (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), or FAFSA, is the first step in the financial aid process. Use it to apply for federal student financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, student loans and college work-study. In addition, most states and schools use FAFSA information to award their financial aid.” Fill out the FAFSA here. For more information, check out the FAFSA Web site.

Take out a Stafford Loan. Even if you don’t qualify for a scholarship or a grant, your student can still qualify for a low-interest Stafford loan engineered by the U.S. government (Interest rates are capped at 6.8% - but only for undergraduate students). If you take out a Stafford loan between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, the interest is only 5.6% – that’s pretty low by historical standards.

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