College fees are extremely expensive and even dreams are crushed by the idea that some parents may not even be able to afford the expenses to send their kids to college. The good news is that this issue can be prevented by applying for financial assistance, also known as financial aid.
A large percentage of college students are eligible to receive some form of financial aid, commonly through student loans, scholarships, and grants. However, a student’s likelihood of receiving this financial assistance can be influenced by multiple factors such as household income, family size, and academics and extracurricular achievement. Although this can be extremely beneficial for your family’s overall finances, applying for financial aid can be an overwhelming and daunting procedure to go through. As a result, the following steps were listed in this guide to help you through the application and facilitate the entire process.
On a yearly basis, more than 10 million students are granted with financial aid by the US Department of Education. This institution provides over $127 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds every year, making them the largest financial aid provider in America. To receive a percentage of these funds, college students must complete the FAFSA to qualify for up to $30,000 in financial aid.
You will need the following documentation:
- Personal and Parent Identification
- Account Statements (Investments Assets & Bank Statements)
- Prior Year Tax Return and W-2
- Records of Untaxed Income
- College Choices
2. The Application Process for FAFSA is Split into the Following Steps.
- Apply for FSA ID: If you do not have one, you must apply for one in order to initiate your financial aid application. Please keep in mind that as a dependent student, you must apply for two separate FSA IDs, one for the student and one for the parent.
- Begin your application process by going to the FAFSA official website ( www.fafsa.ed.gov) and follow the instructions. Although it sounds very simple, you may come across some questions that you may not know how to answer properly. As a result, the FAFSA has created a PDF called ‘Complete the FAFSA Form’ offering question-by-question guidance.
3. What Occurs After Submission?
Following the submission and review of the application, a decision will be made within 7-10 days. You and the institutions you have applied for will receive a student aid report with the information provided on the FAFSA. This report will also state the EFC which is the expected family contribution. Colleges will use this information to determine the amount of financial support that a particular student will need and qualifies for. For clarification, your financial need is commonly calculated by subtracting the cost of attendance and your EFC.
Once the FAFSA is processed, completed, and used to determine your financial needs, you should expect a financial aid letter from the colleges which you have applied. These letters will state and outline the financial aid package that you have qualified for and received. However, you should do your own research to determine what kind of financial aid you have received - whether it is a gift such as grants, scholarships, or work-study with no financial return obligations or a loan that you will have to repay when you finish college.
4. What if the Financial Aid is Not Sufficient?
If you have taken full advantage of the financial aid provided by the college and you still have a gap between your total costs and what this aid covers, student loans can be an option to make up the difference. However, it is suggested that you borrow strategically and only request a loan if you desperately need it to finish your academics.
It is important that you do in-depth research and be strategic when you choose a particular student loan. Only borrow when you need to cover college expenses after using all of your financial aid. Additionally, begin to research about all the different loan options and forecast your future student loan payments on each type of loan in order to understand what it will take to repay this debt after you graduate from college.
5. Request for More Financial Aid if it is Not Enough
If you feel like you did not receive enough funding, it is possible to get more aid by appealing. Based on your particular circumstances, you can reach out to the school’s financial aid office and begin talks about a professional judgement case, which will enable the school to potentially offer you more financial aid. In order to appeal, you must have a good reason in which you can prove that your circumstances between the time when you first received the offer and the time school starts have changed. For example, your parents losing their main source of income and no longer being able to meet your tuition costs or any other financial emergency.
When such extreme cases rise, it is recommended that you immediately meet with the financial aid office at your college in order to request further financial assistance. It is crucial to come prepared with documentation proving your new and unusual circumstances that have caused your plans to change.
In summary, even though the idea of college tuition fees can be a frightening thought, applying for financial aid can be extremely beneficial and most of the times, a lifesaver. It is crucial that you observe and research what type of financial aid you have received in order to have a detailed understanding of how much you will be saving during your time at college. If this quantity is not enough, make sure to communicate with the financial department at the college you will be attending to see if they can do anything for you. Make sure to make the most out of this opportunity in order to minimize your financial stress and attend college without any worries regarding long term debt.