FAFSA tricks for free college cash

Think of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as your gateway to college aid. Without it, college-bound students aren’t eligible for a variety of need-based grants and loans.

Applying can make a big difference. Average financial aid awarded during the 2012-13 school year totaled $13,640 per full-time student, according to The College Board. That included $7,270 in grants that don’t need to be repaid. To put that in perspective, during that same academic year, the average cost to attend a private four-year college was $40,261, including tuition, fees, room and board, and $18,171 for a public four-year college.

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