Applying and paying for college feels complicated and oftentimes, overwhelming to families and students alike. That’s why February is National Financial Aid Awareness Month across the U.S., thanks to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). Throughout the month, there is always a concentrated effort to help individuals understand more about financial aid at every level. February is a great time to educate yourself and your family. Education is empowering! Take advantage of information circulating this month to become more confident about filing the FAFSA forms this year. Failure to complete these forms can result in a loss of thousands of dollars in financial aid for your student.
During National Financial Aid Awareness Month, look for information about these specific topics to help guide your financial aid applications and decisions for college!
#1: Financial Aid
Did you know there’s different types of financial aid? Learn about the differences between scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student loans. Frankly, each plays a key role in the college financial world, but they are all very different from one another. Not understanding the variety of options you have could cause your family to miss opportunities and rely too heavily on only one of your many options.
One of the most common mistakes we see is that people assume they won’t qualify for any aid. Never assume that you earn too much or too little for aid! Honestly, completing your financial aid applications are the only way to know for sure! Make every effort you can to complete them on time and accurately.
#3: The FAFSA
The Free Applications for Federal Student Aid is often the gateway to substantial financial support. It can feel overwhelming, even with the new changes to make it more simple. Take the time this month to understand what you need to complete this application thoroughly and accurately.
#4: 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. Knowing the colleges’ needs in advance will save your entire family stress during the application process!
#5: Student Loans
Student loans can make the financial component of college easier – in the moment. However, it’s important to avoid overburdening your family or your student’s future with excessive borrowing. To accomplish this, you and your student should understand the variety of loans that are available. It is important to look at their repayment options. Discussing the implication of borrowing money should be part of the conversations you have with your student.
Scholarship searches can provide additional funding for your student – from the cost of attendance to simply covering books. Your student should be looking for scholarship opportunities every year in an effort to find that additional cash. Many students fail to invest the necessary effort to locate, understand and apply to pertinent scholarship opportunities, so talk with your student about their importance and value.
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 if you might qualify. The financial aid office can help determine what provisions might be available for your student. Sometimes this additional financial aid option may be the difference between attending the school your student wants – and not.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge keep your student from being able to afford the college of his or her dreams. February is a great time to do additional research, ask more questions, and try to understand the world of financial aid. While it may feel like a lot of work now for your family, it is worth it! Undemanding these systems can make college more affordable and realistic for your family.
Who is CFFA?
CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options.
Schedule a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails. Don’t forget to check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.