Financial aid tipsLearning about financial aid for your college experience can be an education in itself. It isn’t always easy to know where to start with this education or exactly what questions to ask, and you may have a huge list of costs to consider that accompany your degree work. From books and tuition to cost of living expenses such as rent, food, entertainment, and transportation, your expenses can start to accumulate, picking up speed throughout your college career like an avalanche coming down a mountain. In order to combat this avalanche, it’s important to understand as much as you can about what you can do and what tools are at your disposal to help you find financial aid and further your education.

Here are four tips that might help you to keep your educational affairs in order when it comes to your finances and financial aid.

Visit Your College Website

One of the best things you can do when educating yourself regarding your school’s options for available student aid may be to visit their website. Many schools will offer information regarding financial aid and how to go about getting it or finding out more about it. You can look for tips, find out about scholarship, work study and assistantship opportunities, and learn about grants and loan information. It might also be important to visit your educational institution’s website to determine where a student financial assistance office is located, locate pertinent contact numbers or student aid personnel, and find out about other relevant information pertaining to financial aid and assistance.

Don’t Overextend

Financial aid can be a useful tool, but it’s important not to let its consequences get away from you. Your studies might come first and foremost in your mind, but keeping an eye on those student loans that are stacking up is also important. Coming out of school with hefty financial aid responsibilities can be a burden that’s tough to bear. There can be an inordinate amount of pressure after graduation when you find yourself searching for a job and possibly struggling to make it on your own. Finding that you’re thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in debt due to your education can add to the stress you may experience.

It may therefore be a good idea to consider options other than the typical student loan when it comes to financing your college education. While you don’t want your studies to suffer, taking on a part-time job, doing some work study, and applying for scholarships might be pertinent ways to spend at least some of your college career time. If you have the opportunity, you might also consider family loans. Doing so could afford you the opportunity to take a bit more time paying back mom and dad than you would regular student loans, and your parents might even consider not charging you interest!

Understand Terms

Much like the law, ignorance when it comes to the terms of your financial aid is not an excuse for not abiding by their terms. It is pertinent that you read and understand your loan contracts and scholarship or grant requirements. Losing such aid can be costly and can come at a time in your life that could leave you without means to pay for your education.

But reading these documents isn’t always enough to give you a proper understanding of what you are signing or agreeing to and how much this financial aid might cost you over the loan haul. Therefore, if you are unsure as to whether you are interpreting such contracts correctly, or even just want some reassurance that what you understand them to be saying is correct, it can be important to conduct your due diligence. Just because these items are often issued through reputable sources and are for a good cause (i.e. your education) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them as you would a car loan or home mortgage. Be sure to ask questions, talk to friends or family who have utilized similar financial aid, and search the internet for problems or issues others have encountered with similar aid programs.

Be On The Ball

Being on top of things when it comes to your financial situation during your education may mean the difference between having enough money to cover your expenses and having to set your education aside due to insufficient funds. Being on time with your applications, following up if you don’t hear anything in a reasonable amount of time or provided timeframe (things do get lost or misplaced along the way), and keeping track of your applications, can help keep you from costly errors.

To better assist you in tracking and organizing your financial aid applications and information, consider keeping a file for each loan/grant/scholarship for which you have applied, as well as a calendar of important dates pertaining to these items. Along with this information, you might consider adding a ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts containing the name of each loan/grant/scholarship and corresponding contact personnel, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.

Remember, a year or even months between re-applying for financial aid may have you scratching your head trying to remember how you handled the process and the steps involved previously. Having a calendar, file, checklist, cheat sheet, or whatever works well for keeping you organized, can make this process easier, and keep you on track when it comes to getting necessary funds for your education.

Finally, now a days more and more colleges are adopting online courses into their class options every semester. They are growing in popularity amongst students and universities alike for a variety of reasons and this is something you should feel free to explore. You can start by browsing through a comprhensive list of programs and colleges in our online degrees channel.