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Students, parents invited to financial aid workshop

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System is urging parents and their 12th-grade students to begin thinking about how they will pay for college.

The local high schools will hold a financial aid workshop at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Newton High School's auditorium.

Representatives from Oxford College will discuss financial aid at private schools, DeKalb Technical College representatives will speak about the HOPE grant at technical schools and representatives from the Georgia Student Finance Commission will explain the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

"Many, if not most, students going off to college need some form of financial aid," Catherine Crisp, college and financial aid advisor for Alcovy and Eastside high schools, said in an e-mail response to questions. "The FAFSA form is one application that can apply students for federal grants, federal student loans, the federal work study program and the HOPE scholarship."

Shelley Lawyer, college admissions and financial aid adviser for Newton High School, encouraged parents and students to attend the hour-long program.

"When students are completing financial aid forms, they are largely based on their parents' income, so the parents have to be involved," she said. "This will provide them information and tips on how to complete the (FAFSA) in the most accurate manner."

Crisp said guests don't have to bring anything with them, since they won't actually fill out the FAFSA that night, but she suggested that they make themselves familiar with the FAFSA form before the program by visiting www.fafsa.ed.gov.

"Some students and/or parents decide not to fill out a FAFSA form. Instead, they go with private loan companies they see advertised on television," Crisp said. "I would encourage students and parents to fill out the FAFSA form instead. FAFSA is the only application for federal (government sponsored) grants and loans for college. Federal loans are offered at a much lower interest rate than the private loans advertised on television."

Lawyer said anyone attending a post-secondary institution should fill out the FAFSA, since it is free, no matter what their financial situation.

"A lot of colleges require students complete it to get scholarships or grants," she said. "We encourage all students to do it ... so they will be ready to go to school when they get their acceptance letters."

Lawyer said the application needs to be complete before the students enroll to a school.

"We encourage students to complete the form as early as possible," Lawyer said. "Sometimes with federal grants and other scholarships, it's the early bird that catches the worm."

Parents and students who can't make it to Tuesday's workshop are encouraged to attend College Goal Sunday, a statewide event on Feb. 10 that will hold financial aid programs in 17 locations around the state.

Locations nearest Covington include Athens Technical College, Clayton College and State University and Griffin RESA. More information can be found at www.collegegoalsundayga.com.

Although these programs will not include any information on local scholarships, the financial aid advisors pointed out that local scholarship applications are due in early February.

The deadline to have scholarships turned into Lawyer at Newton High is Feb. 8, while Feb. 4 is the deadline for Alcovy High and Feb. 5 for Eastside High.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: Newton County Financial Aid Workshop

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Newton High School auditorium

What: College Goal Sunday

When: 2 p.m. Feb. 10

Where: Athens Technical College, Clayton College and State University and Griffin RESA

More Information: www.collegegoalsundayga.com