College students applying for financial aid are often overwhelmed at the financial aid process – finding it, applying for it, receiving it, and ultimately paying it back. If there were only one type of financial aid, applying might be easy. Yet each student’s reality is as different as his or her personal situation. There are many types of financial aid, and the variety of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs available means that you need to pay attention and do your homework.
With all the options out there, along with the application paperwork involved and the tough competition for every grant and loan, it’s easy to become discouraged. However, by staying focused and attentive from the start and putting a little time and effort in at the outset, you can vastly improve your chances of getting the right financial for your situation and putting yourself on a career track straight to success.
Financial Aid, First Things First: Be Informed About the Costs and Your Options
With educational costs rising across the United States, it can be a challenge to figure out how to afford a higher education or how to manage returning to school after already being in the job market. Yet, having a college degree has never been so important, and the demonstrated link between college education, better job prospects and higher salaries throughout your career is stronger than ever.
Even prior to choosing an educational program, it’s key to speak to the financial aid department of the various schools you are considering. Be sure to disclose as many personal details as possible because often there may be niche scholarships available that you qualify for but would not even have thought existed. This is exactly what financial aid offices are for – so be informative and get informed. Here are some important questions to ask that will help you figure out the ideal options for you:
- Does this school offer any scholarships that would be relevant for me?
- Are there any special grants available to me because of my heritage, gender, age, background, nationality, high school achievements, earlier extracurricular involvement, status as a parent, or any other personal factors?
- Are the scholarships or grants renewable? Will they cover me throughout my education or just for a year or semester?
- Are there loans available for me?
- What kind of loans are they – public or private? Subsidized or unsubsidized?
- What is the rate of interest, repayment terms, and repayment conditions of the loans?
- How soon do I have to begin repaying the loans once I have graduated or left the school?
- Is there a possibility of deferment in case I do not find a job immediately?
- How flexible are the repayment options? Are there possibilities for flexible repayment plans depending on income, unemployment, disability, military service, continuing education, or other factors?
- Do I need someone to cosign my loans with me? What responsibilities does this person have?
Numerous educational institutions have specially designed payment plans and course scheduling to help students manage financially as they study, in order to avoid going into debt. An education is an investment, and it is your responsibility to choose the school that will bring you the best returns possible on that investment.
The Dependency Consideration of the Financial Aid Process
Students who definitely will need financial aid in order to afford higher education are often told to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the first step towards the financial aid determination process. Each student should fill out this application because even if you and/or your family can afford your education, you may still qualify for financial aid, so it is worth seeing what the options are.
It is important to understand that federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily you and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. Since a dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you are considered a dependent student, your parents are not necessarily required to pay anything toward your education, but it ensures that the Federal Student Aid Office can look at each student’s personal situation in a consistent manner.
Nevertheless, this overall picture is not always appropriate – for example, in situations of older or nontraditional students; cases in which the family may have high income, but significant costs to take care of, thereby rendering it unable to contribute to the student’s education; or situations in which, for whatever individual reason, the family is not able or willing to contribute.
What to Do if Your Parents Are Not in the Picture
If your parents refuse to provide information or help you with this process, you cannot be considered independent from your parents just because they refuse to help you. If you do not provide their information on the FAFSA, the application will be considered “rejected,” and you may not be able to receive any federal student aid. The most you would be able to receive (depending on what the financial aid office at your college decides) is a loan called an unsubsidized loan. If you are in this situation, the Federal Student Aid Office, which manages the FAFSA process, will inform you of your options in case your parents aren’t supporting you and/or won’t provide their information.
If you are an older or nontraditional student, if you have no contact with your parents or don’t know where they live, or you’ve left home due to an abusive situation, you need to fill out the FAFSA and then immediately get in touch with the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend. The financial aid staff will inform you about the next steps. In such special circumstances that prevent you from providing parent information, you do have options, and the financial aid professionals can help you.
What Kinds of Financial Aid are Available at Florida National University?
Florida National University (FNU) offers five different types of online degree programs: Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and a Master of Business Administration. Detailed information concerning financial aid, tuition, and fees for the various programs offered at FNU is available through the Consumer Information section of the website. Our Financial Aid Officers are here to assist you in affording the education you want, and our mission at the Financial Aid Office is to provide a financial package to cover the difference between your budget and the amount revealed by your official need analysis. So contact us today and let us help you get on track to a successful future!