Tip 1: Learn the ropes
If you pay attention to the financial aid process, you might be able to get more money to go to school or borrow less in student loans. Each year the Department of Education produces Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid. From this guide, and other resources such as FinAid.org, you can get valuable advice that will help you pay for college.
 
Tip 2: Prepare and charm!
When you talk to financial aid officers, think of it as a job interview: Be professional and ask informed questions, based on your research. Financial aid officers make decisions that can help or hurt you, so it's in your best interest to come across as smart and businesslike.
 
Tip 3: Know the lingo!
It's smart to familiarize yourself with some of the financial aid terms that apply to your national service experience and your education award. Here are some key terms. You can learn more at a site like FinAid.org.
 
Cost of Attendance (COA): The amount it costs to attend a college or university as determined by the school. (The amount varies from school to school.) Included in the COA are tuition/fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and potentially the one-time purchase of a computer. You can use your education award for any cost that can be determined as Cost of Attendance.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount you and your family (if your parents claim you on their taxes) are expected to contribute toward the cost of your education. This is based on income and assets from the previous tax year.
Need: The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need:
   COA - EFC = Need.
Based on the information you provided in your FAFSA, the financial aid office will create an offer of grants, aid, and loans that match your need.

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