February 8, 2009

How to Get Free Money for College - Part 1

President Obama is restoring our privilege to seek college options, based on a news release to increase Pell Grant from $4,050 to $5,350 on Yahoo News.

There are many websites out there with an abundance of information on how to get free money for college. But, what they don't tell you...it's not easy. The truth is, it takes a lot of ground work on your part to find that free money. Once you find the school you are interested in, be prepared to ask your financial aid advisor a lot of questions. Before you do, have your homework completed and game plan in place.

Keep in mind, most financial aid advisers are trained to process paperwork. They are not trained to find you free money unless you ask first. Finding free money is your job! Many become disappointed after their first appointment with financial aid. They believe that this person behind the desk is supposed to have all the answers and resources to free money. In a perfect world, they should. Well...guess again, they can only check your qualifications by having you fill out an application called FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA application can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.

If you don't qualify for the free money, you most likely will walk out feeling very disappointed. But, if you do qualify, the doors will begin to open for you. Depending on the type of college; most financial aid offices will have resources for free money, you just need to ask. Therefore, preparation is key before seeking a college education.

Yes, free money is out there, but it's totally up to you to find it. The hardest part is qualifying. If you don't qualify for the free money don't be discouraged; there are other ways to fund your tuition, such as low interest federal loans. The reason why most people don't qualify for free money from the government is because it's all based on need. The needier you are, the more free money you can get.

So...bottom line -- you have to be making minimum wage are no wages; or have a medium to large family size that makes less then $40,000 a year. If you are not under this category; don't quit your job or lower your income, or even make more babies just to show on your income tax return that you are needy. Yes, it helps to be needy to qualify for free aid; but can you afford to live day to day and go to college?

The FAFSA application is based on your current federal tax return and the federal worksheet. Complete the FAFSA application online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. On the worksheet, it will ask you to fill out everyone in your household that you provide more than half of their support. This does not include children that don't live with you and you provide child support. The amount of people you indicate on the worksheet should match the amount of people you claim on your federal tax return.

For females, you should also include your unborn child if you are expecting in the year you are applying. If you are a single parent to be, your unborn child counts as part of your household. This changes your status to an Independent student, versus Dependent student.

A dependent student is required to use the income of their parents to qualify. If you are considered an independent student, the income information is based on your sole support. How do you support yourself, do you work or does your parents provide for you? If you live with your parents and you don't work, you would indicate on the worksheet of the FAFSA the cash value you receive from support, such as food, rent, clothing, etc.

In other words, how much allowance do you get? Even if you don't pay rent, your parent's do for you. They also pay for your food and clothing and gas or car expenses. This is considered cash according to the government. Figure the average costs your parents pay for you each month and times that by twelve months, this is your yearly income. If you're not sure how much your parents pay for you, just estimate the minimum costs per month. Remember, you're not working, so your income should be below minimum wage per year.

See my post dated February 10, 2009, What's an EFC? The Results of your FAFSA for more information on how the FAFSA application is determined.

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