Paying For College:

Financial Aid Options

Now more than ever, it is essential for students and families to plan accordingly and understand their financial aid options. Recent statistics show that the cost of college averages about $9,000 for just tuiti

on at an in-state public college. That’s no small amount.

But by maximizing no- and low-cost financial aid, choosing student loans carefully, and developing proper money management skills, it is

possible for students to not only attend college but to also graduate and head towards a solid financial future – without a pile of debt.

First, it’s essential to learn about the various forms of student financial aid, including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and private student loans. It’s also vital to learn about the scholarship application process – which can feel like an unruly network of paperwork and deadlines.

Learn this acronym: FAFSA

When applying for federal grant money and loans, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA application, managed by the U.S. Department of Education. Your likelihood for receiving federal grants and loans is based on financial need – and decided by your FAFSA application. So, take care when completing your information.

Joel Chrisler, writing for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), offers convenient steps to follow.

  1. Create an account (FSA ID). You and your child should create your FSA IDs at Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature.
  2. Go to and click “Start A New FAFSA.”
  3. Fill out the Student Demographics section. Here’s where you’ll enter basic information about your child. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on their Social Security card, so you don’t encounter any errors.
  4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA information sent. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet.
  5. Answer the dependency status questions. In this section, you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine if your child is required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.
  6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section. This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information.
  7. Supply your financial information. In this section, you’ll be asked to provide parent financial information. This step is simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This allows you to import your IRS tax information with just a few clicks.
  8. Sign your child’s FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Source: Steps for Completing the FAFSA for your College-Bound Child, (Joel Chrisler).