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Getting the most out of Financial Aid Night

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At senior high schools around the country, the financial aid night has become a common fall event. With financial aid becoming more complex, many high school counseling offices are wisely choosing to invite the experts in to discuss the details of applying for and accepting financial aid. One thing to remember is that if your high school does not offer such an event, you can most likely invite yourself to another local high school’s financial aid night.


The information should be as relevant to you as if it were given to you by your own high school. A good financial aid presentation should go over the basic application process including the FAFSA on the web application. This is the critical piece of information but not the only information you need. Other topics that may be covered include.

What is financial aid? Cost of attendance (COA)

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Categories, types, and sources of financial aid

Special circumstances

You may also be directed to the new “My FSA” website hosted by the Department of Education. This is an excellent new resource at no cost to either the student or the parent. Go to www.studentaid.ed.gov and click on the MyFSA link on the left menu bar to explore its options. You can use this site as an electronic file cabinet for all your resources for college including applications for admission, your personal profile that can be uploaded into your FAFSA application at the time of submission, career objectives, planning calendar and much more. I encourage you to use this free resource, as it is designed to give you a head start on the financial aid application process and also to help you integrate both the college search and the financial resources search into one easy to use application.

A good use of your time at a financial aid night is to get you and your parent on the Department of Education’s websites to familiarize yourself with the web based FAFSA application. Once there, you can navigate to the PIN website, www.pin.ed.gov, and request a PIN for both yourself and your parent. To be clear, your parent must request his or her own, and you must request yours. Within a few working days, or even shorter in some instances, you will receive your Department of Education PIN number in your email account. It is wise to check your junk mail filter at this time to be sure you will receive your communications from the department and from FAFSA. Once received, you will be closer than ever to filling out your FAFSA. If you are not given a FAFSA worksheet, either ask your high school counselor for one, or print on off from www.fafsa.ed.gov. This worksheet is not an actual application, but it is a good place to gather the information you’ll need once you sit down to your computer to begin the web based FAFSA application.

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