how to make the most of your financial aid office's help
Posted : February 2, 2006
Last Updated : January 13, 2015
Your Financial Aid Office is there to provide you with financial assistance and advisory services so you can pursue higher education. Be sure to make the most of their help by performing the following tasks.
Apply for financial aid early. You should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1st of the year for which you are requesting aid. It is important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible so you will meet financial aid priority deadlines. For students whose FAFSAs are received by the priority deadlines, the financial aid office will give them first consideration for some federal and state financial aid programs that have limited funds.
Meet with a financial aid advisor. You should meet with a financial aid advisor at your school in order to gain a better understanding of the types of aid you are eligible to receive. Your financial aid advisor will be able to help you choose financial options that are appropriate for your financial needs. Be sure to come up with a list of questions to go over during your meeting, if you need any clarification.
Attend a financial aid workshop. Often times, a financial aid office will host a financial aid workshop on campus or in the community in order to give an overview of the financial aid process. Find out about any workshops that your financial aid office may be hosting so you can understand the process and have a chance to ask specific questions.
Inquire about their outside scholarship policy. Every school has an outside scholarship policy that states what happens to your need-based financial aid package when you win an outside scholarship. Outside scholarships are any scholarships that are not awarded by the government or the school. The combination of your expected family contribution (EFC) and your aid package (with outside scholarships included) cannot exceed the cost of attendance of the school. If this happens, your aid package must be reduced and schools will have different policies on how they handle this situation. Many financial aid offices will work with you to reduce the impact of the outside scholarship policy if you are up front about reporting any outside scholarships.
Inquire about Federal Work-Study jobs. The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for students with financial need. Eligible students who indicate that they are interested in work-study on their FAFSAs will see the work-study award listed on their financial aid award notification. If work-study is not listed as an award on your notification, then you can visit your financial aid office to inquire about your eligibility. Your financial aid office can also help you find a work-study job on campus or may know about off-campus agencies and organizations who hire work-study students.
Understand their professional judgment policy. Professional judgment is the ability of a financial aid counselor to change a student's financial aid based on unusual circumstances. Professional judgment policies may differ from school to school. If your financial situation has changed dramatically since you filed the FAFSA, you should meet with your advisor to discuss your situation. Circumstances, such as death in the family, sudden unemployment of a parent, unusual medical expenses, etc., can lead to more financial aid. You should provide your advisor with documentation of the changes. Keep in mind that adjustments to aid awards are not made based on negotiations but on actual financial changes in your family.
Review their web page. Be sure to visit your school's web site and review the Financial Aid Office web pages. There, you will find many resources to help you through the financial aid process, such as frequently asked questions, downloadable financial aid forms, policies and procedures, etc.
Be sure to take advantage of the assistance offered by your Financial Aid Office. If you have any questions about services rendered or about the financial aid process in general, call your Financial Aid Office to speak with a representative.