December 11, 2017

College Financial Aid: Where to Begin

Wondering how to pay for college? Student financial aid continues to boondoggle many students and frustrate parents. Charging willy-nilly into student loans and other types of financial aid is not an advisable strategy. What, then, is the best first step to college financial aid? Federal student loans–and for a couple of very good reasons.

Why Leave Federal Cash on the Table?

Year after year millions of American college bound students fail to file for federal financial aid or they file incorrectly for various reasons:

  • They missed the deadline
  • Didn’t think they’d qualify for any financial aid from the government
  • Had little support from family or school to aid in the process
  • Submitted incomplete applications
  • Just didn’t file.

The most unfortunate aspect of these failures to file is that in most cases students would qualify for some cash from Uncle Sam.

Failure to File the FAFSA Could Impact Other Financial Aid Efforts

What many students and parents don’t realize is that filing for federal student aid is a requirement for many other forms of financial aid, student loans, and most scholarships. If you fail to file the FAFSA, you automatically exempt yourself from other college money sources.

Filing for Federal Financial Aid

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to federal student aid in recent years has been the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the official government application. It’s earned a reputation as absurdly long and tortuous to complete. In fact many parents require assistance from schools and financial aid personnel to successfully complete the form. But the good news is that the federal government continues to make improvements in hopes that fewer students will lose out on possibly thousands of dollars in some of the lowest interest loans available.

Recent FAFSA improvements include:

  • Shorter FAFSA form.
  • Accessible online in both English and Spanish versions.
  • Applicants’ federal income tax data can be estimated for early submissions and automatically filled in later with final tax data.
  • FAFSA website has been redesigned to be ultra-easy to navigate.
  • Finding your PIN and getting the necessary information on FAFSA deadlines is straightforward and up-front.

Getting the FAFSA Done Correctly

Because filing for federal student loans is so critical a part of the college financial aid process, it’s imperative that parents and students carry out all stages of filing:

  • Find FAFSA deadlines that apply to you. The FAFSA website gives you the federal deadline and enables you to search for your state deadline. But your college also has a FAFSA deadline. Tip: gather all deadlines and shoot for the earliest.
  • Get assistance filling out the FAFSA form if you need it. contact your high school guidance counselor or college admissions advisor. Some high schools and communities offer seminars and help sessions throughout the financial aid “season.”

In the realm of college financial aid, filing for federal aid is by far the most important first step you can take.

For more information, visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

Types of Financial Aid

Statistics have shown that in order to survive in current economic times, one must have an education beyond high school. However, few are financially prepared to take on a burden of this kind. Financial aid was designed to provide an opportunity or anyone to complete higher education should they desire to do so.

Financial Aid

There are various sources of financial aid. The most commonly used are governmental grants and loans. However, private institutions also provide aid to students through scholarships and low interest loans. The hardest part is in knowing where to look and then taking the time to fill out multiple applications in order to acquire the most funding for school possible.

Libraries throughout the country carry publications that list various scholarships and how to apply for them. It’s not uncommon for students who apply for multiple funding sources to end up having money to pay for their entire education. Additionally, money is often left over for extraneous expenses. Billions of dollars each year are not used for the purpose intended because no applications are received. This means money is there if one is willing to put in that time and the energy to find it and ask for it.

More commonly students apply for funding through governmental sources. These include Pell grants, which are free to the student, and Stafford loans, which must be repaid. For those whose family has a low socioeconomic income, Pell grants are often granted to the maximum extent possible. These are frequently supplemented by Stafford loans which will have to be repaid after graduation.

There are stringent guidelines as well as timelines for any fund requested from any source. For example, when applying for financial aid through governmental agencies it’s important to have the application completed and taxes done prior to March 1st. The processing center must have time to review applications, send them back to the applicants for corrections, and then get them back in time to send money to the school in time for the fall term.

Funding for school can also come through independent sources. Sometimes these are seen as scholarships, but more frequently they are loans which are to be repaid. It’s important, if considering this option, that the lender be thoroughly checked for legitimacy as well as reliability. The last thing one wants is to show up to register for classes in September only to find out the money isn’t there.

Much of the funding required to pursue career goals will be based on the type of topics studied as well as the length of the program. For example, an associate’s degree will require less funding that a bachelors, masters, or doctorate. Additionally, money is also available for vocational schools, but the amount available will also be limited based on the program selected.

Financial aid is available to help those who wish to continue their education after high school. Unfortunately, in today’s world higher education is required for the majority of positions available. Whether one elects to go to a vocational school, a college, or a university, there is no reason to delay plans to attend because of a lack of funding.

Additional resource links: http://www2.ed.gov/finaid/landing.jhtml?src=ln