Your Most Pressing Financial Aid Questions Answered
You’re motivated to make a better life for yourself and your family while pursuing the career of your dreams. But let’s face it – college isn’t cheap, meaning financial aid will most likely play a significant role in your decision.
If you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things but still have financial aid questions hanging over your head, don’t worry! We enlisted financial aid experts from Rasmussen College to provide simple answers to some of the questions they get asked most. So keep reading to hear their responses to frequently asked financial aid questions.
Financial aid questions & answers for NEW students
1. What is FAFSA?
If you’ve dipped your toes into the financial aid pool, you’ve most likely seen the term “FAFSA” referred to left and right. So what is it, exactly? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s your first step in the financial aid process, according to Wade Kesteloot, regional manager of student finance at Rasmussen College.
In order to qualify for federal aid (e.g., grants and loans), students must complete the FAFSA form to determine their eligibility.
2. When should I fill out FAFSA?
It’s better to complete your FAFSA early in the calendar year because some financial aid is first come, first served. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait until your taxes have been filed to fill out your FAFSA. You can do this beforehand, but you’ll need to go back and adjust it once your taxes are completed, says Kesteloot. Be sure to take note of the documents you’ll need on-hand when you fill out the application.
3. What types of financial aid are there?
There are a few different types of financial aid. Your financial aid package will most likely include both federal grants and federal loans. The federal grants are not to be paid back, but federal loans are.
To learn more about federal grants and loans, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site where you can download extensive fact sheets.
4. How does a student qualify for financial aid?
In order to qualify for financial aid, students need to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), according to Jessica Crotty, Rasmussen College’s director of student financial aid. One important factor in remaining eligible is maintaining a positive GPA. They also need to be enrolled at least part-time, which at Rasmussen College means six or more credits per quarter, Crotty explains.
5. What are some of the scholarship opportunities available for students?
Students can prepare for the scholarship search by researching opportunities offered at Rasmussen College. You can find anything from scholarships for full-time students to military students. StudentAid.Gov is another great resource for locating external scholarship opportunities.
6. What does the student financial services department do?
At Rasmussen College, the student financial services department helps students with the following:
- Guiding students through the financial aid process and filling out the FAFSA
- Offering personalized explanations of federal financial aid eligibility and payment options
- Providing guidance regarding financial aid decisions and counseling to manage affordability
- Processing student accounts and informing students of any adjustments to the financial aid schedule or eligibility requirements
7. Are there any overlooked options for financial aid?
One often overlooked option is tuition reimbursement through your employer. Some employers have reimbursement policies for their employees continuing their education. Student also sometimes overlook state grants. By spending five minutes to fill out an additional form, you could qualify yourself for more grants, Kesteloot says.
8. What is one thing every student needs to know about financial aid?
Students sometimes do not realize that their federal loans are a part of the financial aid package, which typically includes both grants and loans. Another lesser known fact: As you advance through your courses, you become eligible for more loan money.
9. What advice do you have for students navigating the financial aid process?
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and get them answered. Make sure you review and understand your financial aid package, and that you know the difference between loans and grants before you get started, Kesteloot adds.
10. After I graduate, how do I choose a student loan repayment plan?
Rasmussen College’s goal is to provide you with the guidance and information you need to make the best choices for your educational and professional future. Part of those decisions include building a long-term financial plan which will help you feel confident in your ability to cover the cost of your education and manage your budget upon graduation.
As a part of this commitment, Rasmussen College provides loan repayment counseling services from the student loan management team while you're a student and after graduation. While this estimate represents only your financial obligations from attending Rasmussen College, our loan advisors are here to assist you with any questions you may have during repayment, Crotty says.
The bottom line
Navigating the financial aid process can be overwhelming – there’s no doubt about it! But if you’re just beginning your financial aid journey, know that it isn’t difficult to apply. You can determine your eligibility for a range of financial assistance simply by filling out the FAFSA form.
After you’ve figured out how much financial help you’ll receive from the federal government, take a look at these tips from college students about how to manage your money. If your federal award wasn’t as high as you hoped, learn more about where you should be looking for scholarships. And remember – through each of these steps, you’re climbing closer and closer to achieving your dreams!
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- How to Find Scholarships: 4 Places You Should be Looking
- 10 Money Management Tips for College Students
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2015.