Dispelling Myths and Saving Money with Financial Aid

August 31, 2012

Even with talks of budget cuts, there are some things that students don't realize about financial aid. They may have heard these rumors from other students or friends, even misinformed student advisors. However, if you are holding back from applying for a federal grant or filling out the FAFSA, you are making a mistake. Many times, people qualify without realizing the eligibility requirements for these financial aid programs. For that reason, this guide should help you dispel some of the rumors and myths regarding financial aid and how you can save money on your tuition by using it to your advantage.

1. I don't have a 3.0 GPA.

Guess what? Most grant programs don't even consider your GPA unless it's below a 2.5 GPA. You don't need to have the best track record either in college to get a federal grant. While there are merit-based grants, many of which are solely based on need, meaning what you can and can't pay based on your finances and income. With federal grant and loan programs, grades are only considered a factor when you are failing or below a certain GPA.

2. I know my family makes too money, so I don't bother with FAFSA.

It takes 20 to 30 minutes to apply for FAFSA, and most schools require that you fill one out to get into any aid programs that are state or school-sponsored. Many families are also surprised to find out that they were eligible for Pell Grant or federal student loans, which are both good programs for students who need money for school. Since anyone can apply for FAFSA, it's foolish not to make an attempt.

3. Living at home will save money.

Commuting is a big part of college costs. If you live far away from campus, you'll be spending more money trying to get there with fuel and parking costs. If you live on campus, you can receive boarding grants or scholarships to help pay for your living costs. In addition, if you live close to campus, you can find roommates and get more financial aid to live off campus.

4. Loans aren't financial aid.

There are some loan programs out there with bad terms and conditions. However, federal loans are regulated and can really help students meet the needs for school. Subsidized Stafford loans allow students to repay at a loan interest rate and choose some pretty relaxed payback options. You can also use deferments and forbearance to hold out on paying back your loans if you run into some issues after graduating.

5. I can't do anything about a low financial aid package.

Not true. You can appeal any decision on your financial aid package. It's best to do this in writing and to talk to your college's financial aid office or student advisor. You need to fill out a form and write a short reason why you need more aid that can include some extra expenses not covered in the FAFSA. You may need to provide more verification, but schools actually set aside money to pay for students who appeal their initial financial aid packages. You may not get the full amount that you want, but you can get $1,000 or so more than first estimated.

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