In this article we touch upon the subject of financial aid with an overview of the process. We will continue to detail in depth all the various financing options that a student can tap into to pay for college.
Today, students everywhere face the uncertainties that come with high school graduation. These uncertainties, myriad in their number, boil down to one inescapable reality: the expenses affiliated with a college education.
Find Financial Aid For College
Understanding financial aid and the process of finding financial aid is essential to any student considering college. The costs of today’s education are such that a good education comes with a hefty price tag. The good news is that there are many options to finance your education and getting to know each one is as important as choosing a college. Infact, to a certain extent, financial aid and choosing a college go hand in hand. Studentelligence.com has many articles that talk in details about the various forms of student aid, from scholarships to federal grants, from federal student loans to private student loans. Reading these will help in understanding and formulating a plan that can be then implemented to master your financial aid options for college education.
Getting the most out of financial aid – be it scholarships, grants, federal and state loans – depends entirely on a student’s personal initiative, the ability to push past seasonal deadlines, and clarification about an otherwise complex process.
The first step in the process of finding financial aid must be to look at ones own finances and draw definite conclusions. Below are a few questions that any student considering post secondary education should consider before embarking on the long journey to financial aid
- What is the average size of debt owed by the student’s family to various lending and other institutions?
- What will the student’s unmet financial needs look like?
- How long might it take for the student to graduate from a desired program/university?
- What are the deadlines for merit and need-based financial aid opportunities?
- What does the total sum of loan interest rates, repayment requirements, and tax breaks look like for said student?
At a very high level, the following form the four basic steps that a student goes through while evaluating, applying, receiving, accepting and repaying financial aid
Groundwork and Evaluate your options – Learn everything you can and more about College financial aid
Before a student begins the cumbersome financial aid process, it’s important to gather all the information possible. This is needed to make the best possible decision. Here’s a sample of the steps a student will in all probability be taking
Do well on or retake standardized tests
All university systems and colleges use the SAT and ACT to make admissions decisions. The better the score, the more likely the student is to enter a competitive undergraduate program. Many students who fail to meet their expectations on these exams retake them in order to increase their competitiveness. Some merit based scholarships also take into consideration your performance on these standardized tests.
Cross-reference financial requirements and deadlines
Research and gather all available options for financial aid. Students typically start with scholarships and grants and then move on to federal student loans. The reason for this is simple, scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid. This is essentially free money for college. It is the preferred method of financing your college education. You will find yourself spending a lot of time gathering information about various scholarship and grant options. Make sure you keep track of requirements, essay submission deadlines, application deadlines so that you are on top of things and not let free money pass you by.
Apply for Student Financial Aid
As far as scholarships go, most private institutions and foundations, colleges and universities maintain specific deadlines. Scholarships and grants are most important. It is important that you apply early. Work really hard on your scholarship applications since the competition is fierce. Grants, similar to scholarships have their own defined process. Understand eligibility and application deadlines. It is in the best interest of the student to apply to as many grants as he or she is eligible for and apply early.
When it comes to federal aid such as grants like the Pell Grant or federal student loans such as the Stafford loan, it is required that the student file out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA gathers your personal and financial information to determine your current financial situation. The amount that a student is eligible for as disbursements from grants or student loans along with your expected financial contribution or EFC is determined based on the information your report in your FAFSA. Once a student has submitted their FAFSA to obtain federal and state grants, A Student Aid Report, or SAR, follows the FAFSA, allowing students to approximate how much in aid is available for their college education.
Determining the Appropriate Financial Aid Award and College
After a student has finished applying to his or her preferred list of colleges – and after he or she has received award and acceptance letters – it is important to compare each of the financial aid awards from the various colleges where you’ve been accepted. Some will offer more financial aid than others, that said, the amount of financial aid cannot be the sole criteria for deciding your choice of college. A lot of times, students will choose universities that make less financial aid available in order to enter their preferred program and or college.
Accept and lastly start repaying your loan once you graduate
Once a student is accepted into his or her preferred university, it is customary for the student to collect financial aid, decline other university offers. Financial aid like certain grants have to be applied for each year and so sadly your financial aid journey does not end here. Each academic year you will find yourself reapplying to receive the grant. The good thing though is that you will now not have to do the research and will be more sure of what needs to be done.
Student loans, both federal and private student loans are deferred until you graduate or if your academic status changes. Usually you will also have another 3 – 6 months of loan deferment after you graduate. This is usually to help the student sort out his or her finances until they can find a job. After your repayment kicks in. Stay on top of your student loans. A missed payment here and there could have an adverse effect on your credit score. This is why finding a scholarship or a grant has no comparison when it comes to financial aid. That said, the loan terms that the federal government offers are pretty good and finally you also have the option of consolidating your student loans into one single payment to help reduce your monthly payments.
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