It's that time of year again: The scramble to meet deadlines for college financial aid. Here are answers to some common questions.• How do I find scholarships? Most colleges describe their scholarships in a handbook or online. The CMC Foundation itself awards more than 70 every year. You can view those at www.coloradomtn.edu. If you're a graduating senior, your best resource is your high school counselor. The more scholarships you apply for, the better. But treat every application individually and avoid reusing one essay. Award committees look for candidates who specifically address the essay questions they ask.• When is the deadline to apply? Each college and university sets a priority deadline for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the first step in determining your eligibility to receive federal grants, loans, work study or scholarships. Colorado Mountain College's priority deadline is March 31. You may submit an application after this date. However, colleges start making awards right after priority deadlines. You're most likely to get the maximum amount you're eligible for if you submit by that deadline. Contact your college about deadlines for local or college-sponsored scholarships. Some are as early as this month. CMC Foundation scholarships have an application deadline of March 15. • Do I have to file taxes before submitting my FAFSA? You can fill out the FAFSA before you file taxes, using estimates. However, the best way is to file your taxes first and then submit the FAFSA. Most people can file tax returns starting Jan. 30. Others, though - including people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits - will need to file later; the IRS has not set an exact date. For more on this, go to IRS.gov. One advantage of filing taxes first is the FAFSA's automatic data retrieval tool. This tool pulls information from your tax return directly into your online FAFSA application, saving time and ensuring accuracy. Filing taxes electronically speeds this up. You can use the date tool three weeks after you e-file, but if you file using paper, it's eight weeks before the FAFSA can pull your tax information. CMC will host "FAFSA Fridays" in March for students filing their FAFSA. They will be held in computer labs at each campus and are open to all, regardless of where you apply for college. Watch for information on the exact dates and locations. • How do I get work study? You must indicate your interest on the FAFSA. Then follow up with your college's financial aid office.For any questions on financial aid, call Janelle Cook at the Rifle campus, 625-1871. If you plan to attend another campus, call 945-8691 and ask for the financial aid office where you'll take classes. Janelle Cook is the financial aid specialist at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle. Rita Bayless, director of financial aid at CMC, co-wrote this column.
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