While federal student loans and Pell Grants get most of the financial aid buzz, there are often opportunities to receive state-based aid.
Here’s what you need to know...
1. You still have to fill out the FAFSA.
States are given information about your finances that can determine what financial aid you or your dependent may get from state-based programs. These programs may range from additional student loans to scholarships and grants. State financial aid is, generally, in addition to any federal student aid you might receive.
2. Consult your state’s Department of Education.
You can find your state’s deadlines for financial aid on the federal government’s website using the following link. However, you should also check your state’s Department of Education website for information. Why? The biggest reason is the federal website could give a final deadline that is after the state’s deadline for certain individual scholarship forms. For instance, the State of Delaware lists over a dozen scholarships with deadlines ranging from March to June. Yet, the federal website lists the Delaware state deadline as April 15th.
3. State funds can run out.
Federal financial aid never runs out but financial aid from your state can. If you apply late in the application cycle there may not be any money left to receive. Fill out the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available. It's a best practice to fill out all forms as early as possible.
4. Read rules carefully.
Forgetting an essay, a recommendation letter, transcripts, or a deadline can cost you thousands of dollars in financial aid. Make sure to read all requirements thoroughly. Financial aid directors have spoken of students losing scholarships they basically already won simply because they failed to fulfill a simple request for a recommendation letter.
5. Fill out all forms needed.
The FAFSA form is a necessity but so are forms listed on your state’s website. Along with supporting information such as essays and recommendation letters, don’t forget to fill out required forms. For instance, forgetting to fill out one of the forms beyond the FAFSA for the scholarships listed on the Delaware site mentioned above could cost an applicant thousands in scholarship money.