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Be a Smart Consumer

Paying for help with applications: Are you thinking about paying someone to help you complete financial aid applications? Before you do, read our tip sheet to find out why this isn't necessary and how to protect yourself.

Scholarship search services: No one can guarantee to find you a scholarship for college. Some scholarship search services misrepresent their services, guaranteeing that they can obtain scholarships on behalf of students. Other fraudulent companies tell students they've been selected as "finalists" for awards that they can receive only after paying a fee; a legitimate financial aid offer doesn't cost money! For more information, contact the Federal Trade Commission.

Before you take out a student loan, think carefully, because you do have it repay it! Check out ways to cut costs and only borrow the minimum amount you need. You do not have to take the full amount of a student loan offered to you. Especially, be careful about borrowing during the first year, because if you decide to discontinue school you will still owe the debt. Be conscious of the total amount you will have borrowed by the time you graduate, and what the repayments are likely to be. It is best to keep your monthly payments to not more than 8% of your estimated gross income after graduation.

Entrance Counseling: All students are required to complete entrance counseling if planning to borrow from the Direct Subsidized loan or the Direct Unsubsidized loan. When completing the entrance counseling you will learn your rights and reponsibilities as a borrower.

Exit Counseling: All students that have borrowed Direct Subsidized loans or Direct Unsubsidized loans that drop below half time status, graduate or withdraw from school are required to complete exit counseling. You will be reviewing your rights, responsibilities, different repayment options and the consquences of default.

Master Promissory Note (MPN): The Master Promissory Note is a legal document that collects your personal information. You are agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms even if you do not complete your education.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS): NSLDS is a central database that tracks your financial aid history. It allows you to view all types of funding from grants, Federal Stafford loans, Direct loans, Perkins loans, and Plus loans. It tracks loans servicers, account numbers, current balances, loan status, disbursements, loan types, loan periods, interest rates, school name and contact information, grant history, and remaining eligibility.

Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU): The amount of Federal Pell Grant funds you may receive over your lifetime is limited to be the equivalent of six years. Since the maximum amount of Pell Grant funding you can receive each year is equal to 100%, the six-year equivalent is 600%.