Posted January 13, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Community

Navigating Financial Aid

By Jackie Buckman

No matter what school your heart desires, college will always be expensive. Paying for tuition, housing, books, food, and more, things tend to add up pretty fast.

Continuing on to a university means finding a way to pay for it. Either by earning a scholarship, paying for it out of your own pocket, or filling out a free application for federal student aid, known as FAFSA. Sounds easy right? Well there is a lot more to it than just that.

Completing a FAFSA is one of the most popular ways students pay for college. After filling one out you can see if you qualify for a grant which is for you to use for tuition and books, and as long as you continue good grades you don’t have to pay back, or you can qualify for a student loan which no matter what you will have to pay back once you are done with school.

The FAFSA process is actually a very long one. You have to make sure you have the right dates set and after submitting the application it can take weeks and sometimes months to hear anything back. It really depends on when you turn in the application and being on time is a huge bonus.

For example, the FAFSA website states that for the school year 2016-2017 the federal deadline is June 30, 2017, the Washington deadline is January 1, 2016, but if already passed then as soon as possible because after the deadline it can take a very long time to receive news sense they are looking at other applications that were turned in on time, and the college deadline for us at Evergreen is the first of every month depending on the quarter.

There are so many things a student can qualify for. There is federal and state aid which is pretty basic. Federal aid comes from the government and state aid comes from the state. Pell Grants and State Need Grants are options for students to choose which direction they want their application to go through. While Pell grants deal with all students, State Need Grants are for Washington State residents only.  These are both grants, which means, like scholarships, you do not have to pay them back.

After you have submitted all the paperwork and signed your name away, the waiting game begins and you can’t possibly think of any reason they would say no, but there are a lot of reasons to not be able to qualify. One of the main things they start looking at is your expected family contribution. They also look at the cost of attendance, your year of school and your enrollment status. While everyone who ‘qualifies’ for pell grants gets them, state aid is first come first serve, and they are not awarded to everyone the state says should get them.

So what if it happens, the word you were dreading the most, they said no. At this point all you want to know is why, going to school can be so expensive and this was what you needed. The most reason students don’t qualify for financial aid is due to expected family contribution.

They look at the average money both of your parents make in a year and decide that they make too much. They don’t factor in that your parents have a house payment or buy groceries and basically just have enough to survive, all they see is a number.

Even if you are not awarded need based grants, they often give you some options. They may tell you that you can qualify for a loan or you can go through the process of work study which is where you get a job on campus and pay your way that way. Both of these options are still considered financial aid . About 57 percent of financial aid dollars are in the form of grants and 34 percent take the form of federal loans.

Once you’ve figured out all your finances and how you’re going to pay for college, the hard part is over. After that, all you have to do is stay focused and try to have the best experience you can.