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Financial aid experts advise students to choose at least four colleges or universities

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Seniors are gearing up for their next step after high school and many have their sights set on college.

Paying tuition is a concern but now, with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application process opening early in October, students can begin the process of applying for scholarships and other aid. Some colleges and universities may require the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE.  There is a fee for the CSS PROFILE, but waivers are available.

Financial aid experts advise students to choose at least four colleges or universities, compare size, cost, and location and don’t wait to fill out those financial aid applications. The earlier the applications come in the better. Some of the most beneficial student aid funds are first come, first served.

“Look at the net price as opposed to sticker price. Almost like shopping for a car. You need to find that right number that you are going to pay and there are all sorts of loans and grants and aid than can help you make that college dream come true,” said Nicole Hurd, College Advising Corps.“Applying early sometimes is a really good idea if you know this is where you want to go to school. It is definitely the best thing to do in terms of financial aid.”

Keep in mind colleges have different application deadlines. There is early decision, which is a binding agreement with the earliest deadline and is a binding agreement that if accepted, the student will attend that college. Early action means the student is seriously looking at that college and will most likely attend if accepted, but it is not binding. And there is regular decision where the student applies with a later deadline and with the most number of applicants. The deadline for regular decision is typically some time in January.

The FAFSA application process opened Oct. 1 this year, three months earlier than in past years. This is a permanent change.