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Scholarships and grants are generally considered to be the best types of financial aid possible because they don't have to be paid back, Carey says. But many awards are made on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should apply as soon as possible, he says.

Gallegos says if you have a high school senior who will need the help of grants and loans to pay for college, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

People often think of the FAFSA in terms of student loans, but it's also used by organizations that award grants that don't have to be repaid, he says. "The quicker you submit the FAFSA, the higher the probability your student will receive a grant or scholarship at their preferred schools," Gallegos says.




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