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Official offers advice on aid process.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Navigating the maze of financial aid programs can appear daunting at first, but it's a trip that's worth the effort even if you don't think you'll qualify.

Here are some tips from David Myette, board chairman of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and financial aid director at Champlain College in Vermont.

Apply for financial aid early, starting this month. With funding from the government and the colleges up for grabs, it pays to be among the first in line.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid electronically. It reduces errors because it edits your answers as you go along. Get the form at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Depending on the college, there may be additional applications to complete. Check with each of the colleges you are considering.

Watch out for application deadlines; they vary at different colleges.

You don't have to have your 2003 federal tax return completed to apply. You can use estimated figures and then provide a copy of your tax return to the colleges when it is completed.

You also don't have to be accepted for admission to have your financial aid application sent to all of the colleges you are considering. Just list each of the colleges' code number on the application. Get the code numbers on the Web site when you apply or call the schools.

Don't expect that the financial aid office will "negotiate" your award. Most aid offers are based on the families' ability to pay and the amount of aid dollars that the institution has to work with.

Communicate with your financial aid officer. If you have unusual family or financial circumstances, he or she needs to know that. Put it in writing.

Be aware of college financial planners who charge you to fill out the financial aid application. Financial aid officers often can do the same thing for free.

Finally, keep copies of all completed forms and correspondence.
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Title Annotation:Higher Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 18, 2004
Words:324
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