Learning to navigate financial aid can be challenging, and it is not a topic that is always forefront in students’ minds as they prepare for school—after all, academics, extracurricular activities, and social opportunities are of great interest to students! In order to better understand the system at your institution, here are three questions to ask your college about financial aid:
1. What are the financial aid deadlines, and how can I ensure I have submitted the necessary paperwork?
Many students believe that because they submitted their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and indicated their school of choice, they are finished with the financial aid process. However, this is not the case. The college or university you choose to attend may maintain its own deadlines, and in many cases, there are additional steps to address, documentation to provide, and forms to fill out before your financial aid application is considered complete.
Ensure you speak to your financial aid office about any next steps after you fill out your FAFSA. Certain offices post information and checklists online, but if you have any questions, call or visit in person for in-depth assistance.
Often, schools create student portals for their financial aid system. Students must log in to electronically complete forms, update their information, and submit their financial aid files. Ask your college or university if it will contact you if you need to fill out additional forms or provide documents, or if you will need to check an electronic portal or online student system. Double-check that your contact information, including your email address, is current and accurate. Some schools rely solely on electronic communication, so it is imperative that you have a working email that you check frequently. Here is some great information on colleges that address financial needs.
2. What additional forms of financial aid are available, and how do I go about applying for them?
In addition to the funding available through the federal government, there are other types of aid available to students, such as state funds, grants and scholarships for specific colleges or universities, or programs that pertain to certain groups of students (such as education majors or freshmen). Often, these funds require a separate application. Inquire with your financial aid office to determine what other options are available, as well as how you can apply for them.
In addition, financial aid offices can frequently direct you to places where you can apply for scholarships, programs, or grants that can provide assistance with school expenses (i.e. textbooks) depending on your specific circumstances.
3. When will I be notified of my financial aid award?
Not knowing how much or what types of financial aid you will receive can be stressful. Ask the financial aid office when you will be notified of your award, as well as how you will be notified. If you have not heard back from the financial aid office by the date it notes, contact the office to ensure your award notification was sent. Knowing when you will hear about your financial aid award can help ease your mind, as well as allow you to better plan for your college experience.
Financial aid can sometimes be confusing and difficult to navigate, but by asking questions of your financial aid office, you can be sure you have the most information possible. Become as informed as you can about the financial aid process at the college of your choice, and remember that the staff is there to help you succeed in your academic career!