Financial Aid Information
Comparing Financial Aid Packages
On paper, it can be hard to compare how much different colleges will cost, especially those that vary in price. Creating a spreadsheet of each financial aid package will allow for a straightforward comparison of how much each school will actually cost for you and your family.You can use this spreadsheet to compare and contrast financial aid packages and total expenses.
Completing the FAFSA
The FAFSA sometimes gets a bad name as an application that is impossible to complete. However, with a little help, you can fly through the FAFSA application with no problem at all. Nerd Scholar is a website designed to help students and families tackle the college search, application, and financial processes. One of the best resources on this site is a walkthrough guide on completing the FAFSA. This site will lead you through how to complete the FAFSA with ease. Also explore around the rest of Nerd Scholar - you may find some more useful information that could apply to you.
Important changes to the FAFSA: This year the FAFSA is open October 1 instead of January 1.What is the FAFSA?The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Essential this form is what makes you eligible to receive federal aid to help pay for college. The FAFSA will determine how much money your family is expected to contribute (EFC) towards your total college costs. Here is a handout on basic info about the FAFSA.Common FAFSA Errors:Check out this handout on how to avoid making errors or mistakes on the FAFSA form. It is important that this information be as accurate as possible, so please read over this form to ensure you do not have any of these mistakes on your FAFSA.What is the PA State Grant Form?The PA State Grant Form is the application you will need to complete in order to receive state aid for college. You will be asked to complete this application online right after you have submitted your FAFSA. There will be a link to complete this application on the confirmation of completion page on the FAFSA. It is best to do the FAFSA and the PA State Grant Form one after the other to avoid any paperwork delays.
PHEAA is the state organization that responsible for assisting in the distribution of student financial aid. Their representatives are well versed in the financial aid field, the FAFSA, and much more and are able to assist with any financial aid questions you may have. On the PHEAA website, there is a wealth of valuable information to assist students and families through the financial aid and college admissions process. Below is the student guide published by PHEAA which goes more in depth into the financial aid process and explains the steps to take in order to get the most financial aid you can. There are both English and Spanish editions.
Finding a LoanIf you are looking for a way to help cover the remaining cost of college, taking out a loan can be a viable option for you. However, it is important to understand what loan options are available.
Federal LoansFederal loans include subsidized, unsubsidized, and Parent PLUS loans. These federal loans should be the first place you look if you are in need of a loan to help cover the costs of college. You may have a subsidized and unsubsidized loan included as part of your financial aid package from your college. To remember the difference between the two, a subsidized loan means that you do not have to pay interest while you are in college. An unsubsidized loan means that interest will start to grow once to the funds are dispersed to you. You can either choose to make monthly interest payments to it does not accumulate, or you can just let the interest grow.For a Parent PLUS loan, get in touch with your college's Financial Aid Office to see how to apply for a PLUS loan. The total balance of the PLUS loan can be any remaining funds not covered by financial aid. The loan will be taken out in your parents' name, so be sure to talk this option over with them. There is always the option to defer payments on this loan till after you have finished college. If you apply for a PLUS loan but it turns out you are not eligible to receive a PLUS loan, you are able to get more unsubsidized loan money.
Private LoansPrivate loans are loans that you would take out from a bank, credit union, or other private institution. When searching for loans, private loans should be your last stop in the search for loans. There is more flexibility with how much money a private loan can be worth; however, private loans often will have variable interest rates (meaning that the interest rate can change at the discretion of the lender), and these interest rates are often much higher than interest rates on Federal loans. If you are going to get a private loan, be sure to do your shopping and talk to your bank or credit union to see what educational loan offerings they have.More information on the different types of loans:The Basics of Paying for College YouTube video from Adams County Goes to CollegeFederal Student Aid site: LoansThe Simple Dollar: Best Student Loans for 2015
Paying for your LoanWhen it comes time to pay for your loan or loans, there are several factors to keep in mind.Consolidation: If you have multiple federal or private loans (from the same lender), it could be beneficial for you to consolidate these loans into one loan. That way, you will not have to make many smaller payments to several different loans. By consolidating your loans, you only make one payment. The Simple Dollar offers a Loan Consolidation Guide that helps explain how loan consolidation works, and what the benefits of consolidating your loans are.Loan Repayment Calculators: Here you can utilize some loan repayment calculators to see how you will be able to handle paying off your loans once you are done with college. This is very important in understanding how much debt you will have from your college loans, and how long it will take to pay back your loans.Payment Plans: As you can see here from the Federal Student Aid website, there are many different repayment plans available to you. When you complete your loan exit counseling at the end of college, you will be able to select the payment plan that is most appropriate for you. Private loans may also have different repayment plans available, but the options will be much more limited.Loan Forgiveness Options: With Federal loans, there are some ways in which all or part of a loan may be forgiven. For instance, if you become a teacher or work in the public service sector for at least 5 years, all or part of your loan will be forgiven. For more information on what qualifies for loan forgiveness, review the information found on the Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge page of the Federal Student Aid website.
How does financial aid work?
How does financial aid actually work?Take a look at this informative handout from the College Board on financial aid and what the different types of aid are.What do all of these terms mean?Check out the Financial Aid GlossaryWhat is financial need and how is it determined?Here is some very valuable information on what it means to have financial need. This handout also provides information on paying for college, as well as some examples to see how financial aid packages vary.How do I know if one financial aid package is better than another?Take a look at this handout to see how you should compare the different financial aid awards you receive to determine which is the best bang for your buck.Meeting with a Financial Aid representative?Be sure to ask them some of these questions from College Board!Do not be fooled by the myths on paying for college.Be informed and read over several myths to know what is true and what is false.
Dollars for College
Dollars for College is an organization that is meant to help students and families be prepared for sending a student off to college. The Dollars for College website has many different resources available for students in all grades of high school, college students, and for parents/caregivers. Below there are links to the toolkits for seniors in both English and Spanish.