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Rita Bayless and Janelle Cook: Guest opinion

It’s that time of year again: the scramble to meet deadlines for college financial aid. Here are some of the questions we are asked each year:

When is the deadline to apply?

Each college and university sets a priority deadline for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the first step in determining your eligibility to receive federal grants, loans, work study or scholarships. Colorado Mountain College’s priority deadline, for example, is March 31. You may submit an application after this date; however, keep in mind that 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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid?




You can fill out the application for aid before you file taxes, using estimates. However, the best way is to file your taxes first and then submit the application for aid.

This year, there has been some confusion on delayed filing dates for taxes. The majority have been able to file tax returns since Jan. 30. Others, though – including people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits – had to wait a bit for 2012 forms. For more on this, go to http://www.irs.gov.

One advantage of filing taxes first is the application for aid’s automatic data-retrieval tool. This tool pulls information from your tax return directly into your online application for aid, saving time and ensuring accuracy. Filing taxes electronically speeds this up. The application-for-aid website says that if you’ve filed your taxes electronically within the last three weeks, or through the mail within the last eight weeks, you might need to either enter your tax return information manually or return at a later date to transfer your tax return information into the application for aid.

March is a great time to complete the application for aid. The month of March only, CMC-Aspen students will be entered in weekly drawings after they let Janelle Cook know they’ve completed the application for aid. She can be reached at 970-625-6910.

How do I get work study?

Work study is in demand like never before. If you want a work-study job, you must indicate your interest on the application for aid. Then follow up with your college’s financial aid office.

How do I find scholarships?

Scholarships are available both locally and through the college you’ll attend. If you’re a graduating senior, your best resource is your high school counselor. Application deadlines are approaching quickly.

Most colleges describe their scholarships in a handbook or online. The CMC Foundation itself awards more than 140 types of scholarships every year. You can view those at http://www.coloradomtn.edu/scholarships.

The more scholarships you apply for, the better. But treat every application individually; avoid reusing one essay. Committees that award dollars look for candidates who specifically address the essay questions they ask.

The financial-aid process can be daunting, but a college’s financial-aid office is an extremely useful resource. For any questions on financial aid at CMC in Aspen, call Janelle Cook, or if you plan to attend at another CMC campus, call 970-945-8691, and ask for the financial aid office where you’ll take classes.

Rita Bayless is the director of financial aid at Colorado Mountain College, and Janelle Cook is the financial aid-specialist for CMC’s Aspen campus.


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