Looking for financial aid can be daunting. You may even feel like it’s so overwhelming that you don’t even want to start the financial aid application process. But you’ll never know if you qualify for financial aid unless you try! It’s worth looking into, because no one wants to pass up money (maybe even free money!) to make college more affordable.
1. I Can’t Afford College, Especially Not My Dream College!
Looking at tuition prices and calculating the total cost of your freshman year, including meal plans, the cost of living on campus, textbook prices, and miscellaneous fees, will 100% give you sticker shock. Don’t worry! According to Education Data, 86.4% of freshman students receive some form of financial aid to help make college more affordable.
More often than not, private colleges offer more financial aid than public institutions. Some schools even offer free or significantly reduced tuition, but you just have to look! By applying for and hopefully receiving a combination of grants, loans, and scholarships (combined with possibly getting a work-study job), you can definitely reduce the cost of college!
2. I Won’t Qualify For Financial Aid
Do you ever think that if you’re not insanely talented, an incredible athlete, have a 4.0 GPA, or come from a diverse ethnic or socio-economic background that you can’t qualify for financial aid?Well, you’re in for some good news!
There are scholarships out there for just about anyone and any situation you’re in. You don’t need to be the star of your high school’s football team or an Illinois State Scholar. Some organizations award scholarships based on leadership ability, intended major, special talents (like creating a prom dress out of duct tape), volunteer experience, physical characteristics (like height- or lack thereof!), religion, or ethnicity. You can even search for scholarships that don’t take grades or test scores into consideration!
3. If My Family is Middle Class, I Shouldn’t Bother Filling Out The FAFSA
Regardless of your family’s financial situation, everyone should fill out the FAFSA. Need-based financial aid isn’t the only kind of financial aid out there. While your family may not qualify for certain aid, like federal grants, you may still qualify for work-study programs. Also if you plan on taking out federal student loans, you need to fill out the FAFSA to determine how much they can loan you.
Your family’s financial situation could also change throughout your time in college, and you may need to apply for federal grants in the future. Some colleges even offer automatic one-time aid for students, just for completing the FAFSA. Free money is free money after all!
4. I Won’t Qualify For Financial Aid Because I Don’t Have Great Grades
Your high school grades don’t determine whether or not you can or will receive financial aid. Your college grades on the other hand? A whole different story. While federal or state need-based aid are not dependent upon your academics, you’ll need to keep your grades up and maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP) to continue receiving aid throughout your years in college.
Most of the time, to meet SAP standards and remain eligible for federal/state need-based aid, you must do the following:
- Maintain a certain GPA (typically a C average)
- Complete a certain percentage of credits
- Be making progress toward completing your degree within a set timeframe
- Complete the FAFSA each year
Each school has its own SAP requirements, so it’s best to check with the school’s financial aid office for the specific guidelines you’ll need to meet and maintain or receive aid.
5. It Takes Too Long To Fill Out The FAFSA
Dealing with forms, especially when it comes to finances, can be frightening. The FAFSA application has come a long way to become more user-friendly and easier to fill out. Plus, we’ve put together a complete FAFSA guide to walk you through the process.
You only fill out questions that are relevant to you, instead of answering all of the questions. This definitely will save you time and the headache! The form will even transfer your tax data into the blanks automatically if you’ve filed your taxes before filling out the FAFSA application.
Financial aid can feel like a huge uphill battle, on top of deciding where to attend college, what to major in, and making the most of your senior year. So starting early, schedule time to sit down and apply for aid, and ask questions of your high school counselor and/or prospective college’s financial aid office to make the process a lot easier! And once it’s done, redoing it every year is a breeze, because most of your info is saved.