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A Parent Guide to College Financial Aid & Scholarships

From the FAFSA to scholarships, here's the 411 on financial aid


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid - the FAFSA - is your family's ticket to college financial aid and scholarships. Here's the parents' guide to finding those loans and grants, navigating the paperwork and avoiding the scams.

1. Tackling the FAFSA

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This free application for federal assistance is the key to tapping into college scholarships and student loans. FAFSA serves as the financial data clearinghouse for every university's financial aid department. No FAFSA, no money. So here's a guide to FAFSA basics, including the three essential things you must do before you even open the application.

2. 8 Common Myths About College Financial Aid

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Finding college financial aid is difficult enough without getting sidetracked by scholarship myths - that middle class families aren't eligible, only athletes get the cash, or that applying for a scholarship is a one-time thing. If you're still hanging on to these 8 common misconceptions, it's time to get educated!

3. 5 Tips for Filling Out the FAFSA

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So you've logged on to the FAFSA web site and opened an account. Now what? Here are five tips to help you navigate the bureaucratic-filled evening ahead of you, from personal ID numbers and dependency clauses to a slightly bizarre, but oh so useful hint. Pssst, "you" is not you.

4. What Documents Do You Need?

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Filling out financial aid paperwork is never fun, but assemble these 8 critical documents - taxes and W2s, social security numbers and investment records - first, and the FAFSA form could be done in an hour or two. Here's the stuff you need.

5. After the FAFSA: What Happens Next?

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So, you've filled out the FAFSA. Now what? The federal Department of Education will review your numbers and figure out how much you can be expected to pay for your child's college education. You'll be able to access that document directly from a FAFSA web page. And sorry to say, you’re not going to like that number at all. Don't panic. You're not done yet.

6. Scholarship Resources

Your family has filled out the FAFSA, and done the college financial aid forms for each school. Now it's time to broaden the search to corporate awards, special interest scholarships and prizes bestowed by local organizations and service clubs. How? Here are three prime, reliable resources for tapping into the possibilities.

7. Paying Off a Student Loan

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Happy graduation! Er, now about those student loans... If your college kid has funded any portion of his college education with student loans - a Perkins, Stafford or other loan - the repayment clock starts ticking six to nine months after graduation. That may seem like a long time away, when you're busy sipping champagne and contemplating that impressive new diploma. But repayment time rolls around quickly. Here's how it will work.

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