In my Higher Education career, I’ve heard all too often complaints about the dreaded financial aid office. Things take too long, they lost my paperwork or I have to provide more paper work, are just some of those complaints. But don’t give up hope. Not to defend the office but your typical financial aid office staff will sift through tons of Federal regulations and rules as each student is evaluated for awards. At some larger schools, that is a lot of students to evaluate.
Your best bet as a student is to treat them with courtesy, be persistent and ask questions if you have them. The Financial Aid office staff is there to help you find funding to attend the institution. This is not the place to go get money to buy a car or a big screen TV. Use the funding wisely and don’t take more than you need. When you examine your financial aid package, think twice about whether or not you need that student loan. Also, I recommend you keep copies of everything you are asked to send in. You just never know if and when things get lost.
I had the opportunity to talk with a current Financial Aid Staff member by the name of Tammie P. and this is what she shared with me.
As the Spring semester winds down and college students are getting ready to leave campus, what things should they do before they leave campus?
Students should come into the Financial Aid office and fill out the 2013-2014 FAFSA application. Many times there are additional forms needed for verification before Federal Aid can be paid for the next Semester. Being proactive with this process reduces the risk of starting the semester without your Financial Aid.
Now, what are the forms that need to be filled out again?
Each year prior to starting the Fall semester, students need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) this allows student to receive aid for the upcoming year. It is free to fill out. www.fasfa.ed.gov
What happens if my parents earn a lot of money? Should I even apply for Financial Aid?
Yes, the FAFSA is a central application that not only awards grants based off a family’s need but also serves as a tool to awards loans. Just because you may not qualify for a Pell Grant does not mean you will not qualify for some type of Federal Aid. Also the application takes many variables into consideration, for instance your parents may earn a lot of money but they may be supporting a large family or have more than one child in college they are supporting. Sometimes the financial office will use the students FASFA information for elegibility purposes to award private scholarships with certain criteria. It is worth the time to apply.
Now for a returning student, are their scholarships I can apply for to be used this upcoming year?
Scholarship application deadlines at most colleges have passed for this upcoming Fall. It is always a good idea to talk with the Department Head of the area you are Majoring in and ask about possible funding from their specific Department. Students should check the Financial Aid & Scholarships website and apply for the next year so they do not miss out on that opportunity in upcoming years.
Does it make sense to check-in with the Financial Aid office over the summer?
It is a good idea to contact the Financial Aid office after your final grades for the Semester have posted if your GPA is lower than a 2.0 or you have received any failing grades. This could affect your ability to receive aid the following semester without going through the Academic Warning process. The Federal government wants you to be successful in college if they are giving you funding. That means getting at least a 2.0. But they also understand that things happen and a system is in place for students to appeal to continue getting Federal funding even after a bad semester. But, just like in Baseball, three strikes and you are out at most institutions.
Any advice for students as they get ready to return for classes in the Fall?
Contact the office to check in at least 2-3 weeks before school starts. Call or visit. You do not want to wait and have a problem that needs to be resolved before you get your Financial Aid. It is important to have everything in line so you receive your aid in time to have all of your books and supplies in order to start the semester out on the right foot.
I went to apply for FAFSA and they tried to charge me for it, is that right?
NO, you should never pay to complete a FAFSA after all it is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The correct website is www.fafsa.ed.gov
Well there you have it folks. Right from the source.
Hope you to see you around campus!