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Paying for College Part I: 5 Financial Aid Tips

Posted on: January 29th, 2013 by Lori Greene 14 Comments

I posted the following comments previously but this information is important to share with this year’s high school seniors and their parents.

It is that time of year when newly admitted students search for more information about scholarships and other available funding to make their college choice a reality for this coming fall. Understandably, families are faced with the difficult discussions about how to finance a son or daughter’s college education, and in many cases, multiple children.

Here are the “Quick Five” tips to consider when you hear the acronym “FAFSA” and reasons to submit it.

Tip #1: For families less familiar with the college admission process, FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the key word is FREE. It costs nothing but your time. You should never pay anyone to fill this out for you and certainly financial aid offices at any college or university are happy to provide individual guidance. This is your opportunity to see if you qualify for additional scholarships, grants, loans, or a work-study job on campus.

Tip #2: Keep in mind that the results from the FAFSA are linked to a specific student, and much like a Social Security Number, these results follow the student from school to school, whether in-state or out-of-state, and regardless of whether the institutions are public or private. Each institution reviews the results to see what that college or university is able to offer. The results are made available via the Student Aid Report (SAR) and can be sent to any number of institutions a student is considering by simply using the school’s code. At Loyola, the code is 001710.

Tip #3: Ensure you do your best to meet the priority deadline for filing. At most institutions like Loyola, you will see that the date is generally around March 1. Filing by March 1 gives our Financial Aid Office the chance to ensure you have your results (a financial aid package) for review by the May 1 National Candidate’s Reply Date.

Tip #4: Don’t assume you won’t be eligible. Every year, I hear from families who assume they won’t qualify or explain that they went through this with an older child and they didn’t qualify before; it is a different year with different circumstances. The real answer is you don’t know what you might be eligible for until you apply. This fall, Loyola welcomed over 2000 freshman students, with 96% of them receiving some form of financial aid. We also award more than $105 million in scholarships and grants each year.

A few things to remember: first, at Loyola we award merit scholarships to eligible admitted students, but we also have additional scholarships. Second, many students filing the FAFSA demonstrate need, which may serve as a way for a university to award some additional scholarships or grants that have a need component. Third, if you are reviewing college options and determine that there is still a need for more funding but you never filed the FAFSA, this puts you at a disadvantage. Admission and Financial Aid Offices can’t assist with a “want” but are happy to assist families to discuss options, and there are many more options if the college or university actually has a FAFSA on file for you. Sometimes there are even special circumstances which may be reviewed.

Tip #5: Perhaps the most important reason to file the FAFSA is to trigger a conversation about college financing between parents and the student. I am amazed at the number of students who go through the college admission process and never have the “talk” with their parents about what the family can contribute, what he or she is expected to contribute, and ultimately that college is an investment. College-bound seniors often don’t know the truth about the family circumstances when it comes to money, and at times those discussions happen too late.

The FAFSA provides a mechanism to promote a discussion about finances. Students often wish they knew more, but out of respect for their parents it is unusual that they will ask or start the discussion. Keep in mind that a student is much more apt to maintain a high level of commitment to his or her degree program when they know what sacrifices are being made.

14 Responses

  1. avatar Rich Meyer says:

    Somewhere on Loyola’s website there is a reference suggesting that merit scholarships are based on the student’s application. But, your Financial Aid page suggests that the FASA must be submitted by February 1, 2013 for a student to be considered for merit scholarships. Another location states that the priority deadline for financial aid is March 1st. Can you clarify. Thanks.

  2. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Rich, we review students for a bulk of our merit based awards when students apply for the university. Submitting the FAFSA does not have an impact on merit based awards since they are based on the student’s GPA/test score/class rank and not financial need. As long as your student is admitted by February 1st they’ll be considered for automatic consideration scholarships. To eligible for federal aid, we suggest submitting the FAFSA by March 1st. If submitted by that date, you should hear about financial aid packages late March, early April.

  3. avatar L. Simon says:

    If a FAFSA was completed in January, how long would it be before your able to make a student aware of what Aid they qualify for?

  4. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Students usually find out about financial aid packages in late March/Early April.

  5. avatar Denise Fairbank says:

    On your twitter feed there are several tweets that reference having all application materials submitted Feb 1 will allow you to be considered for merit scholarships. Your website references you need to be “admitted” by Feb 1 to be considered. Can you please clarify? Thank you.

  6. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Ideally we would like you to be admitted by February 1st so you are eligible for Merit Based Scholarships. But, there is some flexibility with that date. So, if you had most of your materials submitted by Feb 1, you still could be considered for merit based scholarships.

  7. avatar Carolina Reyes says:

    Hello! I have been accepted to Loyola and it is my top school, I am so happy and excited! However, I am worried about the price, I don’t know how much fafsa, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid will cover, I don’t want to be in too much debt when i graduate. Do you think I would be able to afford it if I come from a low income family? Or are there other forms of financial aid i can acquire?

  8. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Carolina, I’d suggest calling the admission office with questions about fin aid. Call us at 1-800-262-2373.

  9. avatar John taylor says:

    My father was injured last year and has not worked,what do I need to do?

  10. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Reach out to the financial aid office at 773-508-7704. They can help you further.

  11. avatar Lowell says:

    Looking for the Special circumstances form for 2013-2014. We turned in our FAFSA already, but have circumstances that we need to note and cannot find the form.

  12. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Reach out to the financial aid office at 773-508-7704. They should be able to help you further or point you in the right direction.

  13. avatar Maureen says:

    I too am VERY concerned about the financial aid package for my student. I called the fin aid office and I think I was talking to a student because his answer was, “wait and see what you get.” Is there a specific person I can ask to speak with in fin aid?

  14. avatar Alexander Benson says:

    Maureen, if you think you talked to a student you can ask for financial aid counselor/advisor, but at this point it still might be “wait and see.” The fin aid office is putting together packages this month, so they might be able to help you further once packages are complete.