If you are in the process of applying to graduate or professional school, you are likely to have started grappling with some financial aid questions. Although the best source of information on how to finance your graduate or professional education are the officers at the financial aid offices at the schools that you are targeting, and especially, at the schools where you will be admitted, today we want to share at least a couple of basic tips:
1. Credit history is a major factor for private loans; that is, you must have a good credit history to be eligible for private loans. Check your credit history now in case you need to resolve any glitches prior to formally initiating your loan applications. Attempting to address irregularities in your credit history later in the season could seriously jeopardize your ability to qualify to borrow private funds: Obtain a free credit report
2. If you need federal aid, you need to complete a need analysis application called FAFSA. In order to complete a FAFSA, you need information from your tax return. To submit a timely FAFSA--ideally in January--you need to file your federal income tax return as early as possible. When completing your FAFSA, you will indicate the names of the schools where you are applying. Those schools, in turn, will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. Once you select a school among (hopefully) your multiple acceptances, you will start the actual federal loan application process.
3. If you are applying for school-specific aid (i.e., institutional aid) you need to contact the individual financial aid offices at each school. Depending on the school, you may be required to submit additional need analysis and documentation, such as Need Access. Be sure to follow each school's specific guidelines and to look into financial aid matters early. Financial aid is awarded on a first come first serve basis so it pays to be early! In addition, some schools have early filing deadlines for financial aid so you don't want to miss the boat!
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