Posted on Dec 14, 1998

Schenectady, N.Y. (Dec. 14, 1998) – The time to act is now for students considering accessing financial aid to help fund their college education, according to Mike Brown, director of financial aid at Union College.

“At many institutions, especially private colleges and universities, the deadline for submitting financial aid information is on or around Feb.1,” he said. “While the required paperwork is time consuming and at times confusing, proper preparation and careful attention to the details makes the process far less daunting and much more beneficial in terms of eligibility.”

As January marks New York State Financial Aid Month, and Mr. Brown offers the following tips for handling the financial aid process:

Avoid sticker shock. Never let the price tag on a particular institution scare you. Millions of dollars are set aside at most quality colleges and universities to support families' educational goals. Fact: Ninety-five percent of all aid in the United States is based on need.

When in doubt, file early. In the financial aid process, timing is everything. It is really a first-come-first-served formula because institutions are dealing with a finite amount of money. It is quite typical to see literally millions in aid be awarded in a day. But, when it's gone, it's gone. Also, submitting aid information early allows the institution to request additional data if necessary, or to ask for clarification that may determine how much aid is awarded.

Know the rules and the players. Identify, early on, the financial aid requirements, philosophy and restrictions of institutions you are interested in attending. Policies vary greatly, don't assume anything. Find out as much as you can by scheduling appointments with the financial aid office during your admissions visit to a particular institution. The best source for information is the institution you are interested in attending. Much of the information available on-line or in print is far too general. Work closely with financial aid offices; get to know the staff.

If you're not sure, guess. Rather than miss the all-important submission deadline, when necessary use estimates for income and other financial information. Facts and figures can always be adjusted later. Remember, however, when completing the final numbers, always sweat the details. Pay close attention to each request for information, and check and double-check your numbers. Mistakes can be costly.