Want free college money? Apply now!

8:50 AM, Feb 2, 2011   |    comments
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  • "I think my school counselor dropped the ball on that one," Bui, a senior at the University of Colorado Denver, said. "I didn't know about the FAFSA until actually the summer."

    Bui says it was a delay that cost him hundreds of dollars.

    "So, kind of a lot of money, yeah," Bui said.

    That's why the Colorado Department of Higher Education wants people to know that February is the time to start thinking about financial aid and scholarships for the next school year.

    "Many of the pots of money are first-come, first-served," Misti Ruthven, college access director for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said. "So, it's important for students and families to complete the FAFSA prior to the financial aid priority deadline."

    Ruthven says the deadlines could come anywhere from February to April depending on the school. She says this year students should expect some competition for dollars.

    "We have seen a greater demand for financial aid on a national basis," Ruthven said. "There are some pots of money that do go quickly. So, it's important for families to apply early."

    Bui says he still has friends who don't fill out their FAFSAs in time, despite his warnings.

    "I think they think there's just this endless amount of money where if they apply it doesn't matter when - they'll get the money," Bui said. "I mean I try to tell them, but you know, they're like, 'Let's party!'"

    Ruthven says students are missing out on scholarships that are desperately seeking out applicants. She says some don't even have enough people applying like the new scholarship put out by the state of Colorado called the College Access Scholarship.

    "This is a pot of $600,000. It's 250 $2,500 scholarships that students can apply for," Ruthven said. "It's primarily for low income students."

    If you want to find out more about the College Access Scholarship visit: https://secure.collegeincolorado.org/Home/What_s_New/Scholarships_.aspx.

    The Department of Higher Education also has compiled a list of scholarships that are short on applicants.

    Last year, Bui says he missed out on a scholarship that went to students who just showed up.

    "So, the people who applied and went to the banquet, just like $2,000 free," Bui said. "I'm actually going to that banquet next month, actually."

    Ruthven wants parents to know that they should never pay anyone for filling out a FAFSA. The form is available online for free at www.FAFSA.gov.

    "We don't want families to be taken advantage of and have to pay anything within the process," Ruthven said.

    Bui says students should stay on top of their financial aid forms so they don't make the mistakes that he has made.

    "It's a learning process, I think," Bui said. "Balancing not only what you have to do with what you should do."

    (KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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