Paying For College – College Financial Aid and Student Loans

Figuring out Financial Aid is one of the scariest things that students get to look forward to when it comes to schools and colleges. Not only do you have to figure out what school/college you want to pursue your education at, but you also have to figure out how to pay for college.

When I was first introduced to Financial Aid and filling out my FAFSA I broke down and decided, “Neh. I’ll be ok.” My sister had tried talking to me about it and tried to make it less scary for me, but I still wasn’t getting it. I had waited for 2 years before I decided it was time to give it another shot.

Of course I went through the whole process of looking into schools and seeing what they had to offer, see what I wanted to go to college for and how much it costs per semester/credit hours. None of the “bigger name” schools had what I wanted, so I had to look elsewhere. DeVry was recommended to me by my sister’s documentary producer because of someone she knew who went there and loved it; so I checked it out.

When it came time to actually fill out the FAFSA for school, I was told that I needed my tax returns for 2010 to complete it. I tried to go online, myself, and fill it out but I kept getting confused about some of the questions (non-tax related) so I stopped and did something else. I went back to it and just answered it to the best that I possibly could.

The one thing that had confused me the most was that I knew that filling out the FAFSA was a free process, so it confused the heck out of me when I was asked to pay $80 to have someone look it over. I didn’t submit any money to have someone look over it, when I could just simply go to the school and have someone look it over with me; which is EXACTLY what I did.

When I had talked to my Financial Aid advisor about the $80 thing, he had asked me if I had gone to www.fafsa.GOV or if I went to www.fafsa.COM. I didn’t remember which site I had gone to, since both of them had the same questions and generally the same layout. Well, basically www.fafsa.COM is a scam website where you have to spend $80 to have someone look over your FAFSA application BEFORE IT GETS SUBMITTED. It’s a FREE SERVICE! So make sure you go to www.fafsa.GOV (the REAL, LEGIT website!)

Once we got that squared away and got my school code added to my FAFSA and submitted it, it was just a matter of waiting for the school to receive it and “package” my application with my Financial Aid to see how much exactly I would be given in grants and student loans compared to how much the actual cost of each semester was going to be.

What I thought was super cool was that DeVry has each new student complete an “entry counseling” quiz, which is basically just going over the different kinds of loans (there’s like 4), how long they give you to pay it all back and everything in between. There’s a lot of information to read in there (16 sections worth) but luckily it answers basically every question that you could possibly think of.

My Financial Aid adviser even went one step further and provided me with a website (www.finaid.org) that would help talk about Financial Aid in basic English so that way if I still didn’t understand what I was reading or ended up having a question later, I can always go to that website and see what they say.

www.Finaid.org discusses scholarships, loans, savings plans, military aid and even more options. They give tips on how to fill out the FAFSA online and how to maximize what you’ll get for financial aid, calculators on determining cost, savings, loan payments etc. They even have people available and on standby waiting to answer your questions should you need further assistance. I, myself, haven’t looked at everything on the website, but it’s nice to know that I have another resource to answer my questions instead of bugging my Financial Aid advisor constantly.

To new students like me, I don’t think there’s really anything MORE SCARY than Financial Aid, and fully understanding all of my options to be able to afford to go to school. Most people think that if you go to Big Name University like Columbia, or Texas Tech that your education is going to be more superior to that of a “specialty school” like Triton or DeVry.

Most people also start at a community college to get their prerequisites out of the way and then transfer to a huge university. I didn’t want to be one of those people who spent two years just learning about math, English and science before it actually got me anywhere. I wanted to learn what I had to learn; I wanted to get in and get out and start working on my career.

A “specialty school” doesn’t necessarily cost more than a community college or a University, a specialty school is there for people like me whose life is whizzing by and need to get an education as fast as possible to be able to provide for your family. Cost of college should be the main deciding factor for which school you go to, not which college will “look better on a resume” because ultimately it doesn’t matter what school you went to to get your education, what matters is what you do with the education you received.

So go to a school you can AFFORD to go to, and make sure you understand ALL of your Financial Aid options before you dive into a school and drop out, and then get stuck with some odd number of debts because you didn’t finish. Don’t let Financial Aid scare you, it’s meant to HELP you.

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