The financial aid application process is not easy to navigate, even for seasoned counselors, and constantly undergoes changes that further complicates it. Come financial aid application time, many students are confused and concerned with the basics, much less how much funding they can receive. Students should know they have options when it comes to finding the funding they need to pay for college and shouldn’t rely on one source of funding when applying for financial aid.
We have prepared a number of resources to help guide students through the financial aid process, as it will be simpler with more resources readily available. Browse through our site to find tips and financial aid information for educators and how to introduce students to financial aid. Debunk any and all myths that paying for college is out of students’ reach.
Finding ways for students to pay for college can become overwhelming, as there are many options out there – from federal funding options to what a student’s college can offer to the less traditional avenues of outside funding sources and balancing a job and academics. An important part of a counselor’s job is helping students understand their options. Rather than focusing on one source of funding over another, students should be exposed to various types of funding. Students worried about their parents’ low income will probably qualify for a number of federal grants. Students worried about their less-than-stellar academic record when it comes to landing a college scholarship should know there are scholarships that do not look at grades, GPA and standardized test scores. Finding college funding is important, but it’s also important that students know the available choices - ones that cater to them individually.
Federal aid will always be an importance piece of a student’s financial aid package and applications may be intimidating for students who aren’t familiar with applications that require things such as their parents’ income and savings. For those students – or parents who need help completing their first Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, high school counselors and/or intended college’s financial aid officers will serve excellent resources. It is crucial to fill out FAFSA applications as soon as it is available (January 1st of each year) and following the directions carefully so that there won’t be any delays in the application process. Many colleges dole out federal funding on a first-come, first-serve basis until it’s gone. As funding levels may change annually, it’s important for students to be aware of the deadlines.
While the ideal financial aid package would include no student loans, the reality is that most college students will need to take out some student loans to complete their college degrees. An important task for counselors and educators is making sure students understand that they should strive to reduce debt as much as possible when leaving their respective colleges, and to propose ways in preventing debt burden from escalating. Educating students about the different loans available and the most desirable loan options available will go a long way in helping students make smart decisions in funding their future.
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