Applying for financial aid can be overwhelming for students because they come into college with little to no guidance on how to navigate financial aid. The financial aid application requires information about parents’ income tax, total income and assets. Many first-generation/low-income (FGLI) college students can’t rely on their parents because their parents do not have experience with the application and oftentimes English is not their first language.
To clear up confusion about financial aid, keep reading for more information and resources.
What is Financial Aid?
Financial aid is money students receive to help pay for college tuition and other additional expenses. Students can receive gift aid, student employment and student loans.
The types of financial aid include:
Grants and Scholarships. It falls under gift aid, where students receive free money. Grants are awarded based on financial needs, whereas scholarships are merit-based. The amount awarded in a scholarship is based on academic achievements.
Work-study. This program falls under student employment and allows students to work part-time on campus to help pay for college.
Federal or private loans. Student loans are borrowed money from the government or bank with the help of parents and must be paid off. Learn more about federal and private loans here.
The amount of financial aid a student may receive depends highly from institutions. They would consider many factors such as your family’s income, the number of family members in college and medical expenses to decide how much aid to give you. If you think your parents’ income is too high, it doesn’t hurt to fill out the FAFSA application and see if you can receive some form of financial aid. Once you submit the application, your college will let you know how much grants and scholarships you received.
How To Apply For Financial Aid?
You will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for financial aid. The application helps schools determine how much aid to give students. If you are dependent, your parents will need to make an account on the Federal Student Aid website to sign the FAFSA application at the end.
The FAFSA application opens October 1st and closes June 30th every year, but it might vary by state so I suggest double-checking on the website. Try to complete the application as soon as possible because there is a limited amount of funds. If you wait until the last minute to fill out the application, you can miss out on financial aid opportunities.
To save yourself the trouble, double-check the information you filled out on the application. Incorrect and missing information can mess up your financial aid, which can be stressful to fix. Use this checklist to have all the documents you need for an easy application process.
It’s also helpful to save a copy of the completed FAFSA application for future reference. Every year you will have to complete the FAFSA application and having a copy on hand will make your application process go by quicker.
It’s completely normal to feel confused when it comes to financial aid. It’s better to ask for help when you’re not a hundred percent sure about something because the FAFSA application determines the amount of aid you will receive during your entire college duration.