Financial Aid Blunders That Can Cost You
If you’re tossing and turning at night worrying about how you’ll pay for college, there’s good news: Most applicants can attend college one way or another. Between grants, loans and work-study, your school of choice will do its best to get you the information you need to make the money part work.
With that said, ensure you’re doing your part to avoid making financial aid errors. From missed deadlines to entering the wrong Social Security number, the little things can add up to big, costly mistakes. We’ve put together a few examples to shine light on some of the more common financial aid blunders.
DON’T assume you don’t qualify for any financial aid.
Always fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA–https://fafsa.ed.gov), even if you don’t think you qualify for anything. A lot of factors are weighed when determining financial aid, including whether the school is public or private, family size, and how many family members are in college, among others.
DON’T apply only to cheap colleges.
Never base your decision about which school to attend solely on sticker price! While a public university may seem like the cheapest option at first, a good financial aid package or some outside financial awards may reduce the cost of the “more expensive” school significantly.
DON’T procrastinate on filing the FAFSA.
Prospective students can now file their FAFSA as soon as October 1. Filling out the forms early can provide several advantages. You’ll be less likely to make mistakes than if you wait until the final deadline and rush through it. You’ll have more time for your parents or their financial advisor to review it for accuracy. Some schools will make earlier offers of financial aid, which may help you decide which schools to attend (or at least tour).
DON’T borrow more than you can afford.
You may have your heart set on a very expensive school, but unless your family is wealthy or you get a great financial aid package, you may want to consider looking at a few other options. College can already come with a lot of pressure, and it’ll only feel worse if you and your entire family go into serious debt to get you there.
DON’T get wooed by a special “introductory offer.”
Just like some credit cards offer a zero-interest introductory period to entice you, only to be followed by 19.99% interest rates, some schools “front-load” financial aid to make the school look affordable—your first year. Ask the financial aid office staff if the award is renewable for all four years.
DON’T spend time searching for scholarships until you know the school’s policy.
You just found an outside scholarship and earned $1,000 toward tuition. Good job! But what you didn’t know was that many schools will just deduct that amount from your federal financial aid package. They have to; it’s a requirement. Before you knock yourself out applying for scholarships, find out what the school’s policy is.
Avoid these financial aid blunders and you’ll maximize your chances of getting the money you need to make college affordable.