Student Financial Aid – What to expect from Pell Grants to loans to work-study programs.
So you finally got into college. Congrats! But, the question remains – how will you pay for it? If you haven’t done so already, please head over to https://fafsa.ed.gov/ and apply now – it’s free, so you’ve got nothing to lose! Even if your parents make enough money, I still highly recommend applying. You have until June 30th, 2015 to apply, but sooner the better.
Opening up your financial aid package is probably just as nerve-wracking as opening up your acceptance letter. After all, this may be the determining factor in choosing the college you attend. When you open up the letter you will see words like: Federal, Direct Loan, Grant, Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Work-Study, etc. I know it can be quite confusing as I definitely didn’t understand what I was reading the first time I looked at it. So let’s take it apart one by one.
So, you didn’t get enough, now what should you do?
1) Contact the Financial Aid Office
Contact the Financial Aid office and see if you can schedule a meeting to review your offer. After you’re accepted, it’s common to visit the school. During this visit, I highly recommend meeting with a financial aid officer and going over your financial aid package.
Make sure to tell them why it isn’t enough. Do you have a special circumstance that they aren’t aware of? Why is it that you only got a certain amount? These are all questions you should be asking and talking to them about. It’s great to stay in touch with them, as they are the ones who can really help you with this.
Also, if anything has changed financially in your family, such as a parent getting laid off, please let them know. This could make a big difference.
Keep in mind that it’s usually more likely that private schools will have the ability to increase your financial aid award. That being said, whether it’s a public or private school, it never hurts to ask!
2) Direct Plus Loans
If your parents have good credit then I’d look into getting the Direct Plus Loan to cover the rest. Make sure to consider living expenses when you are calculating how much you need. This will depend on whether or not you have campus housing/meal plans, but I’d say if that’s not included, think about $15,000 give or take on top for apartment rent, food, books, etc. Please note for cities with higher costs of living like SF, NYC, and LA, it might be more.
3) Private Loans
You could look into a private loan, but at your age, you will almost always need a cosigner since you won’t have much credit. A cosigner is a person that signs off your loan stating that they guarantee the loan will be paid off if you default to pay it. Since your cosigner will most likely be your parents, I’d only go with a private loan if the rates are better than the Direct Plus Loan.
While these are less guaranteed there are thousands of scholarships out there that you can apply to. Here are a couple scholarship search tools that may help:
Keep an eye out for deadlines and scams (unfortunately, these exist).
I’d highly recommend looking into ethnicity, religious, community, small business, local, or your interest-based organizations. Even small scholarships are worth trying as it can add it up in the end!
Just a note that receiving a scholarship can alter your aid amount because the entire aid put together cannot go over the amount that it costs to attend the school.
If your financial aid package is not enough, don’t give up. Try out the methods laid out above. If those don’t work, use the resources around you. For example, contact your school counselor and reach out to your mentors. You may be surprised with what they can offer you.
This was a guest post written by Grace Parke who blogs at Litterat.us.