Financial aid for college is open to everyone, but some students do not know where to start, especially non-traditional students above 25.
So, below are some facts you should know about financial aid;
1. Every Student is Entitled to Financial Aid for College
So long as you are a student in the United States, whether you are in a private or public school, you are qualified to apply for financial aid. Your age doesn’t matter, neither does the number of years you’ve been out of school. If you want to return to school, then applying for financial aid is your first step.
2. Getting Financial Aid is Free
You don’t have to give money to anyone to help you get financial aid. Any college or university financial aid office can help you without cost, or you can get free help at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Getting financial aid is free; you just need to ask.
3. Starting Early is the Key
The first step in the college admission process is finding financial aid. Since the admission process takes time, you should start applying on time. The manual application (paper version) of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires about 4-6 weeks to process.
According to Katherine Coates, a member of the Awareness and Outreach Department at the U.S Department of Education, a student can get his/her Student Aid Report after 4-6 weeks of processing the paper FAFSA. The student must have finalized the paper FAFSA application.
However, if the FAFSA application is completed through the web, the student can expect his Student Aid Report in 3-5 days. The school or schools enrolled on FAFSA, and the student’s home state will also receive this report.
So whether you are applying manually or digitally, the key is to start early.
4. Get Help from your School’s Financial Aid Office
Almost all universities and colleges have a financial aid office. Call into schedule an appointment. Visit the office and enquire about how they can help you return to school. The services offered here are free, and the staff is very skilled, plus they are interested in seeing you succeed. You can request to speak with the financial aid officer. Let them know what you want, and they will be glad to help you.
5. Your Tax Statement will be Required
Most support is usually based on financial demands. Your tax returns will provide financial aid officials information about how much money you make and the amount you will need for school. For you to be reading this, it means you are likely above 25 years, and you are no longer relying on your parents for money, but if you are, then your parent’s tax returns will be needed.
6. Most Universities Support Online Application of FAFSA
Many universities have outgrown the age of paper application. Applying for FAFSA online is the best way to go about it. You can ask the financial aid office at your school for help or, better still, do it yourself via www.fafsa.ed.gov. You may be applying online, but the good thing is that the financial aid staff will be there to help you when you encounter issues.
7. There are Scholarships Nobody Applies for
Are you surprised to hear this? It is a fact. There are so many scholarships available yearly that most people don’t know about. The fear of not being able to compete with others keeps some students from applying for scholarships. This should not be the case, just apply, and you might just be the only one who did. And if that is the case, then the scholarship is potentially yours.
8. Persistence is rewarding
You know the famous saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Yes, it pays to be persistent. If you have asked for help from the financial aid office and they have not contacted you, then call them, keep on calling, and don’t give up until you get what you want. Don’t assume they are ignoring you; they are just busy. So, keep reminding them, and they will give you the attention and help you need.
It does not mean you have to be rude. Be polite. Don’t just give up until you get the financial aid you desire. Be that noisy wheel.
9. Financial Aid Pays for Different Types of Expenses
Financial aid is not only meant to pay for tuition, books, and school fees. It can be used for other expenses, including tutoring, child care, transportation, food, utilities, and whatever you might need. Now you see how helpful financial aid can be.
10. Scholarships and Pell Grants are Non-refundable
Scholarships and Pell Grants from the U.S. government and can be obtained through FAFSA are non-refundable. These two kinds of financial aid should be top of your list.
However, student loans are non-refundable. You should apply for this type of financial aid when there is no other option. Student loans add up so fast and are terrifying when they come due.