Financial Aid is an often misunderstood topic when it comes to college admissions. People do not understand how the application process works; or don’t understand why they should even be filling out the FAFSA. Here are some common mistakes I have found people making when it comes to Financial Aid.
The Financial Aid office is usually separate from the Admissions office
People often assume that if they fill out the FAFSA, their application will be lower priority in the admissions process.
This is not true. There are very few schools that consider Financial need when reviewing a student’s application. Check if the schools you are applying to are “need blind.” This means the Financial Aid office is completely separate from the Admissions office. Do not shy away from trying to get additional assistance. College is expensive! There is no reason you need to do it on your own if you can get money from other places.
Be careful when taking out loans
The student loan debt in this country is close to $1.5 billion. Many people make the mistake of borrowing more than they can pay back and then ending up in a pool of debt when they graduate.
Be careful and find other ways to pay for college. Taking out loans should be your last options. There are many scholarships out there and you may want to look into working while you are in college to help pay off tuition and other expenses. There are work study programs available at universities and usually some sort of businesses on and near campus that hire students. It might be tight, but it is a lot better than having to pay off borrowed money with interest for years after graduation.
Also consider what you are studying and whether you will be able to find a lucrative career after you graduate. Engineers normally have a much higher starting salary than someone with a philosophy degree. Of course you should pursue what you are passionate about but keep that in mind. If you cannot pay back loans in a timely manner they start to pile up and you end up paying back a lot more than you borrowed.
The FAFSA is extremely important
The FAFSA is used for all types of aid. Some scholarships even require the FAFSA to be filled out. We will discuss the FAFSA in a later post, but there is no harm in filling out the FAFSA. Take an hour or two to fill it out when it first comes out. If you fill out the FAFSA earlier, you put yourself in a position to get more aid.
You also never know where you may qualify for money. When I was in graduate school I qualified for a TEACH grant I had no idea about before I filled out the FAFSA. Make sure you understand the terms of grants because they normally come with requirements that you must fulfill to get the money. But as long as you are ok with those conditions, you may be able to stay away from loans through these alternate methods of financing your education.
You can do it!
Keep an eye out for more articles about financial aid, and remember the FAFSA opens October 1st!