Start early applying for financial aid

College-bound students and their families may be overwhelmed bythe thought of paying for college in the months ahead. This month,the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC)announced its annual campaign to help students and familiesunderstand the financial aid process and to encourage completion ofthe Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – one of themost important tools in securing financial aid – early in the newyear.

While students may still be deciding which college is the bestfit, the process of applying for financial aid begins now, saidElsa Magee, acting president of HESC, the state’s student financialaid agency that helps people pay for college.

The HESC website, www.StartHereGetThere.orgSteven Dwire, financial aid director at the College of Saint Rosein Albany, has this message for college-bound students: Don’tassume you or your family won’t qualify for financial aid. Everystudent’s situation is different and he or she may have qualifyingfactors that someone else doesn’t have, he said.

The key to getting college aid is by filing the Free Applicationfor Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, said Dwire. Yourpersonal circumstances change every year, so it is important tofile the FAFSA every year you attend college.

Financial aid information sessions and free Complete the FAFSAworkshop events are being offered at locations across the state.Visit StartHereGetThere.org to find a location near you.

Students and families with questions about the FAFSA may also calla toll-free HESC hotline, 1-800-808-1790, every Tuesday andThursday from noon to 5 p.m. in January. FAFSA questions may beemailed anytime to FAFSAHelp@hesc.org.

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