Avoiding the Pitfalls of the College Aid Process
- Monday, November 29, 2004
Loans are counted as financial aid but must be repaid after graduation. An offer of part-time employment on campus should not be rejected outright. Many students have found that their jobs have actually helped their adjustment to college and can lead to experiences that enhance post-graduation work or study opportunities.
Financial aid programs normally require a renewal application annually. Eligibility may change due to family changes (income, divorce, number in college, etc). The deadlines for renewal aid are usually later than for freshmen or transfer students - be sure to check with your college for specifics.
Fact or Fiction
Some "myths" regarding the aid application process persist:
Myth: Families with assets will probably not be eligible for aid. Major assets like retirement funds and the home are not considered in the calculation. Family income and size are still the biggest factors. 35% of student assets are considered to be available for each school year, but only 5.6% of parent's assets, so it is normally not wise to shift family assets into the student's account.
Myth: A student can claim independence from the family and receive more aid. The rules make it very difficult for undergraduate students to not have the parents' "ability to pay" taken into consideration.
Myth: Dishonest applicants are rewarded for falsely reporting income and assets. Financial information is subjected to verification by most colleges (tax return) and violations are subject to loss of aid and other penalties.
Myth: Lots of aid goes unused. Most colleges are challenged to make gift aid sources stretch to meet the demand. Private scholarship search companies promote their service by encouraging the idea of uncovering pockets of unused gift aid. The fee paid is normally not worth the service received. Using free services like fastweb.com is the best way to conduct a search.
The Bottom Line
In sum, here are your marching orders if you want to maximize your financial aid opportunities:
• Navigate the aid application process by filing the required forms within the deadlines;
• Attend school sponsored aid application seminars for needed help;
• Narrow your college choices early but don't be quick to rule out schools due to their price tag;
• Talk with college financial aid officers if you feel you have special circumstances;
• Don't rule out loans or part-time jobs;
• Don't be afraid to compare aid offers and follow-up on major differences;
• Report family changes that occur during the school year;
• File your renewal aid applications within deadlines.
© Sound Mind Investing
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