The Simple and Easy Guide to College Financial Aid
First things first…FAFSA
How Much Money Am I Getting?
There are several factors that can affect how much money you will receive in financial aid, including your family’s income, whether you are a full-time or part-time student and the cost of attending your university. Furthermore, the amount of financial aid that you receive from year to year can fluctuate depending on your income and your family’s income for the given tax year.
All of these calculations usually happen through an automated program and then is reviewed by an advisor at your institution, who then creates an award letter for you. If you want more detailed information as to how this is calculated, you can visit studentaid.gov.
Your Golden Ticket…Your Award Letter!
After your university has received your FAFSA and calculated what financial aid you have been awarded, you will be issued a financial aid award letter. This is sent to you either online or in the mail. Keep an eye on your campus email and your mailbox at home to make sure you don’t miss it!
Your award letter will outline all of the financial aid that you qualify for, based on the calculations that were mentioned above. You will have the option to either accept or reject the financial aid offered to you. Below are some of the different types of aid that you might see on your award letter:
FEDERAL PELL GRANT
There are two kinds of scholarships that students can receive — institutional or outside scholarships. Institutional scholarships are money that the university itself is offering you. An example of this would be a Provost’s or President’s scholarship based on your high school GPA or SAT/ACT scores.
You can also apply for outside scholarships from organizations other than your university. There are scholarships for just about anything and there are so many websites dedicated to listing scholarships for college students. Here are a few of my favorites: DOL Scholarship Search, FastWeb and College Board. Your high school or university also should have an up-to-date listing of local scholarships available, as well.
Student loans are one of the most dreaded parts of college. Student loans are money that the government lends you in order to pay for college. Students begin to repay their loan, plus interest, six months after graduation.
The most important thing to remember about loans is to only borrow what you need. A lot of students just take the full amount of loans offered to them, without considering how much will be covered by other financial aid or how much they can pay out of pocket. Contact your financial aid office if you wish to lower your loan amount.
There are several types of loans that you might see on your offer letter:
…so now what?
Now that you have successfully completed your offer letter, your university can begin processing your aid. But first, there are a couple of documents that your university might request from you. If you are taking out a loan, you will need to complete the Loan Entrance Counseling and the Master Promissory Note, which can both be done at studentloans.gov.
The financial aid office will contact you if they need any more information or paperwork from you. Be sure to check your campus email and home mailbox so that you don’t miss any important deadlines.
Disclaimer: Every college has different policies regarding financial aid and the paperwork that they require. This information is simply based on my knowledge from my experiences and should not be taken as gospel. For specific questions, please consult your school’s financial aid office or studentaid.gov.