Why College Financial Aid Should Be Every Student’s Top Priority
College Costs Can Add Up Far Too Quickly…
This is the number one reason why every student should make planning for college costs a priority. When you’re busy worrying about how you’re going to afford to pay for college, it’s much more difficult to focus on the other vital parts of preparing for college, like filling out applications and writing essays. By sorting out your financial aid early, you can relieve a lot of that stress.
Yet, there are far too many myths and rumors about how financial aid works. Many students are discouraged from even filling out the FAFSA, assuming they won’t qualify for aid. In this article, we’ll discuss why every student should be filling out this application and making their financial aid plans a priority.
What You’ll Find In This Article
- The Many Ways to Pay for College
- The 4 Types of Financial Aid Available for College Students
- Where it All Starts: The FAFSA
- Don’t Wait to Sort Out Financial Aid
The Many Ways To Pay For College
Just as there are many different colleges and types of college students, there are many different ways to pay for college. With the average cost of attending college amounting to $26,226 per year, students learn to pull from a variety of sources to finance their education. From applying for merit-based scholarships to participating in work-study programs, prepared students do everything they can to manage how much student loan debt they have to take on.
Other students go even further by doing what they can to cut their costs, such as attending a community college for their associates’ degree or buying used textbooks over new. Some students choose to live at home and commute to school to slash their costs. While these practical approaches can help lower a student’s total cost for their education, there will still be many school-related expenses to pay for.
Regardless of how you plan to approach your college costs, seeking financial aid should be your number one priority.
Why should you prioritize planning on how you’ll be paying for college? Simply put: college is expensive. Financial aid helps you relieve some of this financial burden.
Even if you believe that you won’t qualify for federal financial aid due to your family’s income or situation, there are many forms of financial aid that do not rely on your financial situation to be awarded. As we touched upon, a solid way to pay for college doesn’t rely on a single source and instead uses several different types of financial aid to cover the total cost.
The 4 Types Of Financial Aid Available For College Students
Finding financial aid for college can feel like wading through a sea of endless options. When you first sit down and try to figure out how you’ll be paying for college, it can be confusing trying to figure out which option is best for you. The right approach to your college finances is one that takes advantage of many different sources of financial aid; below we’ve outlined the four most common sources of financial aid available.
Merit-based scholarships are sums of money that don’t need to be repaid and are awarded based on a student’s accomplishments or achievements. There are merit-based scholarships for a wide variety of achievements and displays of talents. The vast majority of merit-based scholarships do not take a student’s financial situation into account, though hybrid scholarships that consider both need and merit do exist.
Students who have impressive track records, high grades and test scores, or a history of involvement in impactful community service should look toward merit-based scholarships to help pay for college. Merit-based scholarships that revolve around talent, art, or performing may require that you write essays or put together portfolios in order to be considered.
The difference between merit-based scholarships and need-based scholarships can be best explained by this: need-based scholarships take a student’s financial and background information into account. Many need-based scholarships come from state and federal funding, but there are many private sources of these scholarships as well.
For students who feel as if attending college may not be financially possible, need-based scholarships can help students create a realistic plan to pay for college. Students should not solely rely on federal or state-based scholarships in this category and should branch out to see what private need-based scholarships, merit-based scholarships, and federal grants may apply to them.
Together with scholarships, 23% of families used grant money to help pay for college in the 2018 - 2019 school year. Federal grants are some of the most commonly used to help pay for college expenses. The Pell Grant is the government’s largest and most well-known grant program that has helped numerous students attend college.
In addition to federal grants, students may also be able to find college and state grants that suit their needs. Some of these grants may be limited in who can receive them and come with commitments a student must make. For instance, many specific state and federal programs exist to help educate the next generation of workers in vital jobs, such as the TEACH grant. This grant helps future school teachers pay for their college education, but the student must commit to then use their degree to teach in needed fields or low-income areas.
FEDERAL WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS
If given the choice between trying to juggle a part-time job while keeping up with your studies or working a job on-campus where you’re allowed to study during downtime, which would you choose?
Federal work-study programs allow students to work on-campus in libraries, student programs, and other departments. These part-time jobs allow you to pay for part of your college education and gain valuable job experience at the same time. They’re often structured to allow students to use their downtime on the clock to study, work on coursework, and read.
For students eager to earn job experience and cut down on their out of pocket college costs, a work-study job can be a game-changer. Not only do these work-study programs provide valuable financial aid, but they also help students get a taste of “the real world” and increase their networking opportunities.
Where It All Starts: The FAFSA
If you’re approaching the FAFSA for the first time, check out our in-depth guide to filling out the FASFA here.
The Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is a student’s first stop on their road to paying for college. Regardless of your financial situation, you need to fill out the FAFSA. Don’t assume that you won’t qualify for financial aid unless you’ve checked! The myth that it’s possible to “make too much money to qualify for aid” isn’t true, as there’s no income cutoff point for the FAFSA. While not every student will qualify for need-based aid, they will be connected to aid that they do qualify for that can dramatically improve how they pay for college.
If you gather all the financial documents you need beforehand, it takes only a few hours to fill out the FAFSA completely and send it in. If you’re struggling to find answers about your specific situation, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The FAFSA can be confusing at first glance, but if you go slowly and follow our guide as you go, you can approach it with confidence.
Make sure you start filling out the FAFSA as early as possible too. The FAFSA opens every year on October 1st. There is only so much aid to be awarded, and so by sending in your application early, you give yourself the best chance of receiving the most financial aid possible.
Don't Wait To Sort Out Financial Aid
The expenses of college can begin to add up quickly, and you need to create a solid plan for how you’ll pay for them. Once you’ve sorted out your financial aid, it may feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. With so many horror stories about student loan debt, knowing that you have a plan to lower the number of loans you need to take out can make the process of paying for college a lot less intimidating.
However, for some students, filling out the FAFSA itself can be intimidating. This can lead to procrastination, and ultimately, submitting your FAFSA so close to the deadline that you may miss out on financial aid, grants, or scholarships that have already been distributed.
Fortunately, here at WeAdmit we’ve all been faced with complex applications before. If you’ve been having trouble evaluating your financial aid options, or just need help filling out the FAFSA, reach out to one of our WeAdmit counselors. We know the FAFSA can be confusing the first time around, and we’re always happy to share our tricks and tips for getting you through this and every other part of the college application process.
Don’t Wait; Make Paying For College A Priority No Matter What!
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