11 Feb Lessons to Learn During National Financial Aid Awareness Month
They say that knowledge is power, a statement that is more than appropriate when it comes to financial aid. Many families fail to file the FAFSA because they do not have knowledge or, if they do manage to get it completed, they make a serious mistake or omit crucial information. This might cause them to lose out on thousands of dollars in financial aid which really could make the difference in whether or not their student will be able to afford to pay for college.
To emphasize the importance of knowledge, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) designates February of each year as Financial Aid Awareness Month across the entire U.S. This month represents a concerted effort to provide crucial information to students and families about access to federal, state, and institutional student aid. Here are some important elements of financial aid that students and parents should find time to focus on during this month:
- Financial Aid: Learn about the different types of financial aid – scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student loans. Each plays a key role in the college financial world, but they are all very different from one another. Failure to understand the full spectrum might cause your family to rely too heavily on loans, and miss out on other opportunities.
- Eligibility: Do not make any assumptions that you earn too little or too much to qualify for any type of student aid. Your student could receive merit aid or might be eligible for state programs, but you will never know for sure until you complete the required financial aid application.
- The FAFSA: The Free Applications for Federal Student Aid is often the gateway to substantial financial support, but it has acquired a shroud of mystery over the years. Although FSA is trying to simplify the process, you should still take time to understand the FAFSA in its current form and acquire knowledge to make sure you complete it properly.
- Other Applications: Applying for financial aid is not a one-size-fits-all proposition among colleges. Some require the FAFSA, some use the CSS Profile, and some have their own forms. Certain states may require additional information to confirm eligibility for their programs. Make sure your student understands exactly what each college on their application list requires.
- Student Loans: Try not to overburden your family or your student’s future with excessive borrowing. This requires that you understand the different types of student loans, study repayment options in advance, and discuss the implications of borrowing with your student.
- Scholarships: These can often provide an important additional source of funding, but many students fail to invest the necessary effort to locate, understand and apply to pertinent scholarship opportunities. Over the course of three months, the CFAA Scholarship Program can help locate, organize and apply to 60 personalized scholarship opportunities that could help fill any potential financial aid gap.
- Unique Populations: Students in certain categories may be eligible for additional financial aid assistance. This may include adult learners, students with physical or mental challenges, refugee and asylee students, current service members and veterans, students with criminal convictions, undocumented students, homeless students, and victims of natural disasters, war, or terrorism. Talk to the financial aid office at each college to determine what provisions might be available if your student falls into any of these categories.
There are also myriad questions and situations which can make each financial aid situation unique. One great starting point to learn what questions you need to ask is with a CFAA new client free strategy session. This gives us a chance to look at your individual situation, and coordinate your college search and financial aid timelines.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge keep your student from being able to afford the college of his or her dreams. Make sure you conduct thorough research, ask appropriate questions, and get ready for the sometimes rocky world of financial aid. The result, though, is most often well worth the ride. For the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.