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College Financial Aid - Stacking the Odds in Your Favor

Believe it or not, one of the best college financial aid strategies -- especially if you're attending private college -- is to get as many scholarships as possible. The reason, of course, is because scholarships are more attractive than loans since it's free money that never has to be paid back.

What is Need-Based Financial Aid?

Most colleges offer need-based and merit-based financial aid. Need-based aid is usually based on how much income your parents have, including the numbers siblings, since your parents are expected to help pay for your education and the education of your siblings. Even if your parents don't help to pay for your education, the system assumes that they do.

What is Merit-Based Financial Aid?

Merit-based financial aid is based on your grades and your activities from high school. Private colleges are more likely to award large merit-based scholarships than public colleges, since private schools usually have donors who donate scholarships in their own name or contribute to a particular scholarship fund. These institutional scholarships can cover up to at least half of tuition fees each year.

Donít be afraid to seek college financial aid in the form of scholarships from unexpected places. Search your hometown for various community organizations who offer scholarships, such as the Knights of Columbus or the Humane Society. Though community organizations may not be able to contribute the thousands needed for your scholarship, every little does help, especially when it doesnít have to be repaid.

Is there Federal Help for College Financial Aid?

Finally, if scholarships and your savings arenít enough to cover your college expenses, youíll probably need to apply for a student loan. Firstly, complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to check the federal loans for which you qualify. Someone at your college financial aid office will be able to advise which loans are best suited to your personal circumstances and when you should begin your repayments. Remember, although the prospect of paying for college can be a scary one, itís still one of the best investments you'll ever make.

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