This week marks the beginning of a New Year as well as the time that many students and families are receiving acceptance and award letters from universities. Since the 2017-2018 FAFSA became available on Oct. 1, 2016, many institutions’ financial aid offices are beginning to send out award letters to all students earlier. This early action will allow you to see exactly how much financial aid you qualify for and provide extra time to secure more resources.
Reading award letters can be challenging. Therefore, it is important that you contact the financial aid office to thoroughly understand the requirements before accepting. Throughout your tenure at an institution, educational expenses can increase. New fees and prices may be added to your student account as the college gains new programs, staff, and services. Many schools will provide you more resources for the first year only. So, it is important to know if the awards are renewable as you do not want to have more resources for one year and none the following years.
For example, President Obama had a scholarship his freshman year, yet the money ran out for the following years. As a result, he had to rely on student loans and his family. Therefore, you do not want to attend a school that you cannot pay for or have to take out private loans to stay afloat. The ending result will lead you to a lot of debt or being administratively withdrawn.
To protect yourself and your financial security, be sure to ask these 10 questions to the financial aid office.
- What types of financial aid are being offered?
- What opportunities are available for additional aid?
- What is the total cost of attendance? (Breakdown Tuition & Fees)
- How many credits do I need to receive financial aid?
- Do you offer work-study opportunities?
- Are payment plans available?
- What are the deadlines for accepting/declining an award package?
- Does tuition increase annually?
- What is the average debt students have after graduation?
- Is the award renewable and guaranteed annually?
After asking these questions, you will have a better understanding of your award, terms & conditions, and potential opportunities. Remember, you never want to become content with your financial situation, because your situation may change and awards can be revoked if you do not understand all the terms and conditions.
Moreover, this interaction will allow you to build a relationship with the financial aid office. Per my previous article, a positive interaction with the financial aid office may potentially grant you additional funds. Therefore, weigh all the above considerations carefully before accepting a college’s financial aid offer.
Jessica Brown, CEO of College Gurl has been helping students, parents, and guardians successfully navigate the seas of financial aid at post-secondary institutions as a financial aid administrator at various universities. She is also the author of How to Pay for College When Your Broke. For more information on College Gurl, please visit www.collegegurl.com or follow College Gurl on Instagram and Twitter @collegegurljb.