The folks at Sallie Mae sent me their list of 10 college financial aid tips. Some of the items are common sense, but others are insightful. Here's the Sallie Mae Tip Sheet.
"Sallie Mae’s Financial Aid Top 10 Tips
1. Know your budget
In order to determine how much financial aid you will need to cover the full cost of attending a college or university, you should develop a budget. Tuition and room and board are not the only expenses you will incur – books, lab fees, transportation and personal expenses should all be factored into the equation.
2. Know your deadlines
Deadlines for applications and financial aid forms vary by school and state. In addition, some schools require applications in addition to the FAFSA, (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), check with your target schools to make sure you have completed and submitted everything. Know the difference between grants, scholarships and loans.
3. Know what your family’s contribution will be
The expected family contribution, also known as EFC, is the amount that the federal government and your college or university expect your family to contribute toward your education expenses. The EFC is calculated based on the information you submit on your FAFSA.
4. Know that parents can help
PLUS (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students) loans are federally insured loans for parents of dependent students. Unlike Stafford loans, PLUS loans allow individuals to borrow up to the full cost of the student’s education, less any other financial aid received.
5. Go for the free money first
Unlike student loans, scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid. To search for scholarships, use a search engine like the one at CollegeAnswer.com.
6. Know what your exact interest rate will be and how it can change
The interest rate on federal Stafford loans issued after July 1, 2006 is fixed at 6.8 percent. Interest rates on private student loans can vary so check with your lender. Also, interest rates can change depending on your payment history so make sure to always pay your monthly bill on time.
7. Know the details or your repayment plan and what your monthly payment will be
Lenders offer a variety of repayment plans that allow you to manage your monthly payment amount. You can make standard payments of principal and interest, pay on a graduated basis or pay as a percentage of your monthly income. In addition, Sallie Mae offers benefits or incentives that allow you to reduce your interest rate or receive cash back in reward for successful on-time payments.
8. Know the difference between deferment and forbearance
Deferment entitles federal student loan borrowers to payment relief by postponing payments in certain circumstances for specified periods of time. In some instances, the federal government pays the interest that accrues during the deferment period. Eligibility is outlined in federal law. A forbearance is also an authorized period of time when a borrower does not have to make payments; however, a forbearance is granted at the lender’s discretion. During forbearance, interest accrues and the borrower has the option of paying it quarterly or it will be capitalized.
9. Know that you can deduct tuition and interest on your income taxes
In many cases, you may be able to deduct up to $3,000 in tuition and education-related expenses from your taxes. In addition student loan borrowers may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on education loans. More information is available at CollegeAnswer.com.
10. Know your loan counselor
Students with federal educational loans are required to receive counseling before they receive their first loan disbursement and before they graduate or withdraw, during which the borrower’s rights and responsibilities and loan terms and conditions are reviewed with the student."
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