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College is a major investment. To help ensure there aren’t any costly surprises, we’ve created a list of questions about financial aid to ask the financial aid office before applying, accepting, and heading off to school.
Managing the financial aid process and understanding all the information you receive about aid from a school can be difficult, so whenever possible, work together with your student to get the answers you need.
Questions to Ask Before Applying to College
What are your financial aid deadlines?
Be aware of any deadlines to apply for financial aid each year. Your school may have specific deadlines to submit the FAFSA, and you don’t want to miss out on any available aid because documents weren’t completed on time.
Did you receive all of my paperwork?
Depending on the size of the college and how their financial aid office works, they may not be proactive in reaching out to your student to complete necessary documents. Instead, the school may expect your student to keep track of what needs to be submitted and when.
If you think you and your student have completed all the required documents, contact the financial aid office and confirm that they’ve received everything they need.
How long will it take to hear back from the office after submitting all of the financial aid forms?
When it comes to reviewing financial aid applications and sending award letters, every school has different deadlines and response times.
Questions to Ask Before Accepting an Offer to Attend College
What is the total cost of attendance for the school?
All award letters are not the same, and some can be harder than others to interpret. If the award letter is unclear or you aren’t sure whether all costs are included in the price quoted (tuition, fees, living expenses, books), reach out to the financial aid office and ask them to explain the details of the award. Before your student enrolls in their first semester, you should both know how much it will actually cost to attend that school.
Will you match or consider offers from other schools?
Your student may have received a better offer from another school that’s lower on their college list. Check with the financial aid office at their top choice college to find out how their appeal process works and if they will consider higher aid offers from other similarly priced schools.
Are merit scholarships renewable each year? If so, what are the requirements for renewal?
Not all scholarships awarded by schools are renewable, so be sure to ask. If they are, confirm the requirements to receive the scholarships annually (i.e. GPA, credits completed, etc.).
If the scholarships are renewable, ask if the amount changes as tuition increases each year—typically, it will not.
Are there additional scholarships or grants that returning students can apply for?
Regardless of whether or not the school’s merit scholarships are renewable, check with the school to see if there are other scholarships your student can apply for over the course of their studies to cover tuition increases.
If a student receives private scholarships or grants, will it affect the aid being offered by the school?
This is a very important question to ask the financial aid office. Before your student puts in the extra work to apply for outside scholarships, clarify whether they will affect the school’s award.
If your student does choose to apply for scholarships, they can enter College Ave Student Loans’ $1,000 monthly scholarship. It only takes a few minutes—no essay required!
Questions to Ask Before Beginning Freshman Year of College
How much do we need in loans to cover the remaining costs?
If your student needs to take out student loans to cover additional costs, make sure they understand how to budget and avoid over-borrowing. When applying for additional loans each year, add up the total loan debt that will accrue during the course of your student’s degree.
Over-borrowing can make repayment after graduation difficult. College Ave Student Loans specializes in helping students and families pay for higher education. They have a student loan calculator you can use to see what your student’s repayment plan would look like based on the amount they are borrowing each year.
If our financial circumstances change while our student is enrolled, will you reconsider the financial aid award?
You can speak with the financial aid office at any time regarding this process, though it’s best to know the policies ahead of time, in case this situation were to arise. When you know what to expect, it can help make a potentially stressful time less stressful.
Reconsideration for additional financial aid that is based on a change in financial circumstances (not reflected on the FAFSA or CSS Profile) is typically referred to as a Change in Circumstance or Professional Judgment by the financial aid office.
When and how are bills sent out each term, and when are they due?
Don’t wait for the first bill to arrive—be proactive and reach out to the financial aid or bursar’s office to find out when and how bills are sent, and when they will be due. If you know they are sent by a certain date, but you haven’t received one yet, reach out to avoid any potential issues with registration or late fees.
Are there payment plan options available? Are there additional fees for a payment plan?
If you want to pay out-of-pocket for the balance of your student’s bill not covered by aid, there are usually options besides loans. Some schools offer payment plans that will spread the amount due over the course of the quarter or semester. These plans may come with additional fees, so make sure you understand the terms before signing up.
Do you offer any discounts for paying in full for the year?
Your school may offer a discount if you pay for the full year before starting in the fall. You should reach out to your financial aid or bursar’s office as early as possible to find out if they offer a full-year discount, and if there is a deadline to pay by in order to receive the discount. Similar to payment plans, if your school offers this option, make sure you understand all terms and conditions prior to signing up.
How are refunds processed if the account has a credit balance?
A credit balance may form on your student’s account if their financial aid is greater than the charges on their bill. This is common if you are taking out student loans to cover expenses that are not included on the bill (i.e. books, transportation, off-campus housing).
You should know how the school processes these refunds and what the time frame is for receiving money. They may require that your student sign up for direct deposit, so reach out prior to the fall and make sure everything is set up to avoid a delay in receiving the refund.
College is a big step. Asking the right questions before each stage of the admissions process will help your student make better, more informed decisions, and avoid any unplanned charges on your student’s bill.
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