Navigating financial aid can seem scary for students and parents. But it doesn't have to be! Sammy Redd, NCI's Coordinator of Student Services, shares the five biggest financial aid mistakes that students make when deciding on a path for college. So, high school seniors, beware of these five missteps!
1) Making assumptions that your family does not qualify for financial aid and not completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
All families should complete the FAFSA as it is the gateway for most types of financial aid, both need-based and merit-based. Families are sometimes surprised about the amount of aid for which they qualify.
2) Missing deadlines
Getting the maximum amount of financial aid and scholarships requires adherence to a variety of deadlines. Because they come fast and furious during senior year, parents and students need to maintain a calendar to track what is due and when it is due.
3) Not applying to multiple colleges
Each college will package a financial aid award using its own criteria and resources. Financial aid packages can differ greatly from one college to the next. A student who sets his/her heart on only one college might be missing out on colleges that would provide a much better deal.
4) Not keeping an eye on the bottom line
It is important to understand what the net cost of each school is after factoring in grant aid and scholarships. Exactly how much are the student/parent going to have to borrow or pay out of pocket? Is the required level of borrowing sustainable? Sometimes, a school with a higher “sticker price” might be cheaper due to more generous grant aid.
5) Going it alone
In most communities, there are resources to help with completing the FAFSA, understanding financial aid options, and identifying scholarship opportunities. The financial aid process seems complicated because it is complicated. If you don’t know where to turn, start with the financial aid offices of the colleges you would like to attend. They will be able to help you or put you in contact with community based organizations that can. Help is available. Use it!
If you have questions about financial aid, please contact Sammy Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org.