Financial Aid Myths
Myth #1 – Getting outside scholarships can only help.
Before you go slogging through the vast number of scholarship opportunities outside what the college offers, it’s important to know that many schools will simply deduct that amount from your federal financial aid package. It’s not a choice; it’s a requirement. That’s not to say you shouldn’t apply for other scholarships. But before you do, contact the school you’ll be attending to find out what its policy is.
Myth #2 – Financial aid is the same for all four years.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of zero-interest introductory rates on credit cards. The offer says there’s no interest for the first, say, 12 months, but then the rate skyrockets up to 19.99 percent. “Front-loading” at colleges is a similar concept. Colleges offer you a great financial aid package to make it affordable for the first year, but sometimes the aid decreases dramatically later. Contact the financial aid office to find out if the award is renewable through your senior year. If it’s not, make sure you know what you’re being offered for your sophomore, junior and senior years.
Myth #3 – You can skip the FAFSA because your family makes too much money.
Your parents’ income is just one of many factors in how much financial aid you qualify for. Schools also weigh things like family size, how many family members are in college, and whether the school you’ll be attending is public or private, among other factors. You’ve got nothing to lose by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA—https://fafsa.ed.gov/), and money to lose if you don’t.
Myth #4 – The “best” schools are too expensive to attend.
If you want to attend a certain school but think the tuition is out of your reach, think again. A school’s “sticker price” should never be the deciding factor on whether or not to apply (or attend). With the right financial aid package or a few outside financial awards, the seemingly more expensive school may actually become less expensive than the schools with lower sticker prices.
Myth #5 – It doesn’t matter when you fill out that FAFSA, as long as you make the deadline.
The sooner you fill out the FAFSA, the better. (The earliest you can file is October 1.) The main reason is that schools might make earlier financial aid offers, helping you decide which schools to tour or attend. In addition, you’ll probably make fewer mistakes if you’re not rushing to file to make the deadline—especially if your parents don’t have enough time to have a financial advisor review your FAFSA for errors.
Now you can use your newly minted knowledge about college finances to move forward on finding the best school for both your interests and your budget!