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How do I get the most financial aid?

Apply before your school's priority deadline for financial aid. Research and apply for scholarships from private foundations, clubs, employers and other organizations. If your financial or family circumstances change, contact the school's financial aid office for a new consideration of aid.

University of North Dakota student Max Kahlhamer says he recommends studying hard for college entrance tests, to improve the chances of receiving merit-based scholarships.

"I'd also apply for a lot more smaller scholarships," he says. "Five hundred dollars may not seem like a lot, but it's $500 you could spend on something else."

Mary Crippen is the parent of a first-year college student. She wishes she had attended more seminars about applying for scholarships and planning for college.

"By the time we were looking for outside scholarships to supplement the financial aid package, many of the deadlines for certain scholarships had passed," she says.