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For any student who wishes to begin or return to college, determining “How can I afford college?” might be the question on their mind. In this three-part learning series, we help individuals navigate the financial aid process. The learning series is free and open to the public.
Getting started is where many students find a challenge. Education about financial aid and removing common myths can make financial aid understandable and show students what is within their reach.
Outlined in our financial aid discussion series we outline the steps for applying for federal financial aid, and discuss possible other options for educational funding. Lastly we will discuss what to do once you graduate. You need a solid foundation to help build strong financial awareness to reach your dream of being a college graduate.
The Department of Education determines if a student is eligible for federal student aid. The determination is based on many factors and this is why the application is completed. Department of Education reviews the information provided by the student on the FAFSA to calculate the amount of eligibility of both student loans and grants. Timing is critical depending on where you live. There is also a possibility of state grants, if you complete your FAFSA before the state deadline.
Each year the FAFSA must be completed which allows Department of Education to calculate the amount of eligibility. The Department of Education determines these amounts based on many factors. Three of the most known factors are the prior year wage and income, household size, and the number of family members in college. As this information varies from year to year, the amount of eligibility could also change. Get a jump ahead of other students by completing your FAFSA timely.
In this presentation, future college students explore ways to find additional funding.
Once Department of Education has determined your federal aid eligibility, the next step would be to locate any additional funds to help support your educational dream. As mentioned in Step 1, completing your FAFSA timely may increase the likelihood of being eligible for state grants. This option is easy and you are in control of how quickly your application is made. Other choices for additional funding options could be at the college you are selecting to attend. Contact the financial aid office to see if they offer any college grants to help reduce the amount of federal aid you will need.
Also reach out to organizations to see if they offer any assistance. Local organizations could possibly offer grants or scholarships to students who are starting in a particular field. Contact your church, civic organization and even your employer. Employer tuition reimbursement can also be a great way to help reduce the cost of attending college.
As you attend classes throughout the term, the financial aid received by the college will be applied to your tuition. Any additional federal loan or grant aid that is above the cost of your tuition can be released to you. Remember the reason you accepted the federal student loans was to pay for your educational related expenses. There are specific items that can be paid by federal student aid and some that cannot. Only borrow what is necessary. Do not find yourself over borrowing for something you consider a want instead of a need. You want to earn your degree with the least amount of debt as possible. Being a responsible borrower is vital to being financially strong after graduation.
Finals are complete and you have made it. Congratulations you have graduated! Now, what happens next? There are going to be many questions in regards to next steps.
Any federal student loans were disbursed on your behalf must be repaid, including the interest. If this is your first time attending school and you completed your degree without any breaks in enrollment, your repayment begins after a 6-month grace period. Each student is given 6 months to get in contact with their servicers, set up accounts, and create a budget to repay your student loans.
Reach out to the servicer of your student loans and start that conversation. You worked hard to complete your degree, get started in your new career and become financially aware.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” - Lao Tzu