Financial Aid & Scholarships
As college application season begins, many students and families are worrying about a pressing question: How will they pay for college?
Last week, financial aid expert Sarita Broadway from College Foundation of North Carolina visited campus to speak with students and families about financial aid and answer their questions. The talk was part of the annual College Eve hosted by NCSSM’s Counseling Services.
“Financial Aid 101: FAFSA, Loans & More” covered the ins and outs of paperwork, loan eligibility, scholarship opportunities, and “that wonderful FAFSA form,” as Broadway describes it.
Types of financial aid
Financial aid can include gift aid (like grants and scholarships) and self-help (employment and loans), and be merit-based or need-based.
“We have to remember it’s financial aid, not financial all,” says Broadway. “It’s our primary responsibility as the family.”
Sources of financial aid are diverse. Be sure to look into local opportunities (often found by working with your school counselor or by word of mouth), institutional scholarships from college and universities on your list, and national scholarship sites. Here are some sites to get you started on your search, but don’t be afraid to just start Googling others.
Scholarships applications vary widely, but a few basic tips that will apply to almost any application.
- Answer the prompt.
- Be sure to stay within length requirements.
- Personalize it. Tell your story!
- Spell check and read your application/essay aloud before submitting. This will help you notice errors you may miss the first time around.
- Be sure you’re eligible before applying.
- Read the instructions.
- Financial aid isn’t just for first-year students! Keep applying the whole time you’re in college or graduate school.
A bit about loans
Financial aid award letters from colleges and universities often include both gift aid and student loan offers. In order to be considered for this type of aid, you must check that you would like to be considered for it on the FAFSA. This does not mean you will receive this type of aid instead of gift aid, but simply shows you are open to it. You can always choose not to accept the loans later if you decide you don’t want it.
Federal loan limits are set to keep students from being overloaded with student loan debt. Be aware of these limits and how they may affect student loans as well as parent loans. See cfnc.org for more.
Federal student and parent loans also differ in terms of repayment schedules. For parents, payments typically begin around winter break, unless you request that payments be deferred. You can always request a deferral and still make payments, but in order to defer, you must request that ahead of time. Student loans, on the other hand, typically do not go into the repayment period until six months after graduation, or if a student falls out of good academic standing.
CFNC offers a wide range of other resources, from a financial aid primer course and videos on financial literacy to links to scholarship and grant applications and a smart borrower calculator. Visit their website for more, or follow CFNC on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also follow Broadway on Facebook.
Looking for more on college applications and financial aid? View more College Planning resources from NCSSM's Counseling Services.