Web Smarts

www.finaid.org

What: "FinAid" is a one-stop guide for untangling the college financial aid puzzle. The site covers loans, scholarships, and other sources of aid (government aid, tax credits, grants). There's also a database of suggested reference materials, a financial planning section, a section for financial aid administrators, and special tips for students and parents.

BEST POINTS: It's comprehensive. It's easy to navigate. And it's free. There's so much information here that it's best to start from the site map (click on "site map" from the home page). Each category and subcategory is listed logically on a single page so you can go directly to what you want. If you're a student or parent and don't want to sift through the entire site, click on "Students" or "Parents," respectively. These headings offer financial aid essentials and highlight the specific pages you shouldn't miss. Among the other noteworthy pages, be sure to try out the "Student Loan Advisor." This feature calculates the amount of debt you can reasonably handle upon graduation based on an estimated salary for your field. The section on scholarships has an informative page on spotting scams. It also recommends and links to a scholarship search database (fastweb.com).

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The site has won various awards, including one from the College Board. It was developed by Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid and college planning author.

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