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Applying for financial aid is easier than you think!

Judi Sandall, May 7, 2007

Want to go back to school for more computer training or certification, but aren't sure how you'll pay for it? If you think applying for financial aid to help finance your online education is not worth the effort or is too complex, think again. The following information can help demystify the financial aid application process.

Overview: What is the FAFSA?

The income and asset information you submit on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine your eligibility for need-based grants, scholarships, and loans. Your school looks at the cost of your online academic program and the amount the FAFSA has calculated you should be able to contribute toward your educational expenses, and then determines what types of aid they can offer you. Because most need-based financial aid programs are targeted to low-income students, grant assistance may not be available to you. However, you may be eligible for educational loans with lower interest rates and deferred payment. These loans also have more favorable loan forgiveness, consolidation, and repayment options.

How to Apply for Financial Aid

The financial aid application process may seem overwhelming, but if you take it one question at a time, it's easier. Here's how to apply:
  1. Go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov to complete the FAFSA online - it's free!
  2. Print out the FAFSA on the Web worksheet, which tells you what documentation you need to complete your application. Information on the worksheet mirrors the FAFSA information online.
  3. Complete the worksheet and transfer your information to the online FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that first-time applicants should be able to complete the form in less than an hour.
  4. At the end of the FAFSA, you can indicate to which school you want the FAFSA sent.
  5. Your school then communicates with you about your aid eligibility and other financing options.

More Student Financial Aid Options

Ask your school or search online for more information about the following resources to help finance your online education:
  • Educational Loans - Research Federal Family Education Loan Program, William D. Ford Direct Loan Program, PLUS Loans for Graduate or Professional Students, and Private education loans or continuing education loans at your lending institution.
  • Merit Scholarships - Review free scholarship search Web sites, scholarship programs at your school, corporate scholarships, community scholarships, and scholarship compendiums at your local library.
  • Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs - Meet with your manager or Human Resources representative to find out if your employer offers this benefit or look on the company Web site.
Remember, the time you invest in your financial aid application is well worth it. Even if you spend an hour completing the FAFSA and only get $500 in aid, that's a pretty good hourly wage.

Sources
Department of Education Federal Student Aid
FAFSA on the Web

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