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Financial aid guru offers tips




There are a few key words to remember when applying for financial aid for post-secondary education.

Craig Karlin told parents and students at Monday's presentation at Hays High School the FAFSA is free and applying early is important.

Karlin, director of student financial assistance at Fort Hays State University, told those in attendance they will be learning a lot the next few years about the acronym FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Karlin, speaking on behalf of all Kansas financial aid administrators, stressed that grants, loans and work study opportunities are out there, but "it takes some commitment" to apply for aid.

Assistance is awarded first to those who apply early.

Karlin encouraged parents and students to pay attention to the URL suffix while applying. For example, other organizations offer FAFSA applications for a fee; the website for the free application through the federal government is www.fafsa.gov.

The FAFSA application will be online after Jan. 1, and Karlin encouraged parents to get started at an early date, even if they haven't yet filed their taxes for the previous year. The FAFSA has to be filled out every year, and part of it can be completed with estimates of taxes.

"I always tell people that if you're watching the Super Bowl, and you haven't done your FAFSA, then it's time," Karlin said of the NFL's season finale, which this year is Feb. 2.

Kathy Spicer, longtime guidance counselor at Hays High, said she is fortunate to have Karlin available to speak to parents in person.

There also is a work session in late February to help families in Hays and the surrounding area fill out the FAFSA.

"College is getting more expensive all the time," Spicer said, "and you need to try to get all the (financial) help you can.

Monday's session was videotaped and will air on Hays cable channels 13 (Eagle) and 167 (Nex-Tech). It also will be available to download from the FHSU and HHS websites.

For more information, students or parents can contact the HHS counseling office at (785) 623-2608.