Financing a college education can be a challenge, but it is also one of the most worthwhile and important investments an individual will make in his/her lifetime. Student Financial Services offers the following basic recommendations to help parents and families tackle the challenges of financing a college education:

Be organized and mindful of deadlines.

Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible after January 1 on the Internet at FAFSA.gov. Remember to list SAIC in the school section using FAFSA school code: 001753. This application must be completed every year in order to qualify for aid. SAIC’s priority financial aid deadline is March 1. Make sure to apply before this date to avoid any reduction in state and institutional aid.

Become acquainted with SAIC's financial aid system.

Every college and university awards financial aid differently, using individual criteria and many different processes, so it is best to familiarize yourself with SAIC’s financial aid process.

Read instructions on paperwork and financial aid applications thoroughly.

Failing to provide requested information on various financial aid forms is one of the most common mistakes people make when applying for financial aid. For instance, if a required Social Security number is missing from the FAFSA, it will be automatically rejected.

Calculate your budget annually.

Each year, calculate your budget for each semester and academic year. After your student receives his/ her award letter, confirm that you and/or your student have enough funds to cover direct costs charged to his/her student account and indirect costs for living, transportation, personal, and book/supply costs. Helpful calculation forms with sample figures are available on the Student Financial Services website. If further funds are needed, you may need to apply for additional loan funds. Some loans such as Federal Direct PLUS and Alternative/Private loans offer the option of preapprovals for credit before the application is submitted for processing. The suggested time to complete loan applications is at least one to two months before the academic year or semester begins.

Discuss all communications with your student.

Student Financial Services sends a number of communications to students throughout the year. Make sure your student is forwarding those emails to you, as appropriate.

Research your student's options.

A wealth of information about paying for college is available. You can find resources via the Internet, the local library, the government, banks and lenders, and the financial aid offices of colleges and universities. You may want to consider researching outside scholarships as well. Ideally, a student should apply for outside scholarships 12–14 months before the academic year begins. Suggested websites to search for outside scholarships are listed on the Student Financial Services website.