Getting You Ready For the Journey Ahead
At Nelnet Bank, we make paying for college easy to understand.
We know there’s a lot to consider as your senior’s college journey begins, so we’ve provided some resources to help you get off to a great start.
For instance, did you know that every student, regardless of financial need, should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form? Even if your student has already applied to colleges, it’s not too late to file and have your student claim federal student loans offered at great low rates. That’s just one of the things college students and their families wish they had known about the financial aid process before they set foot on campus. Read on for more helpful tips.
You Don’t Have to Figure It All Out on Your Own
The financial aid process can often be confusing to first-time students. Rather than trying to do it all on your own, you can find help. Your high school counselors are great resources. If you have a college or university nearby, they may offer free FAFSA workshops or presentations. They can also help you understand the financial aid process better. If you speak with your high school counselor or someone from a financial aid office, don’t be afraid to ask questions so you’ll be certain you know what you need to do. Although you’ll be doing your first FAFSA as early as October of your senior year, it’s never too early to begin learning everything you need to know. Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education has a FAFSA4caster that you can use to understand your options for paying for college.
You Don’t Have to Accept the Full Loan Amount on Your Award Letter
Once your financial aid application is finalized, your financial aid office sends you an award letter. Your award letter may show different types of financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, and student loans. Colleges usually provide award packages to cover your entire cost of attendance (COA). Your COA includes tuition, books, supplies, housing, etc. However, only borrow what you need, even if you were offered a higher amount. You don’t need to accept the full amount awarded.
One college student said she assumed she should take the amount offered. At first, she thought the extra money could be a cushion if needed. She admitted she spent frivolously on things she really didn’t need. She forgot her loan was unsubsidized. That means interest accrued on her loan while she was in school. Student loans are a great resource to help pay for school as long as you understand the terms and conditions and only borrow what you need.
Don’t Assume You Won’t Qualify for Financial Aid and Skip Completing the FAFSA
Some students and families believe that their income may be too high to qualify for any type of financial aid and simply do not complete the FAFSA form. Although you may not qualify for grants, you still need to complete the FAFSA form to determine your eligibility for student loans and college work study. Some programs (such as unsubsidized student loans) are not need-based and do not have an income limitation. Also, the FAFSA is free to complete, and you could qualify for some other types of aid. One thing families forget is that if they happen to have a higher income, they may also have multiple children attending college, which is a big factor in determining financial aid eligibility. Factors such as your family income, household size, and the number in your family attending college all help determine your financial aid eligibility.
By planning ahead and thinking about the cost of college early, many of these common scenarios can be avoided. By starting your planning early, you can avoid the “I wish I knew then what I know now” feeling down the road.
Nelnet Bank does not provide legal, investment, tax, or financial advice. This page and the information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This content is not meant to address the circumstances of any particular individual. Nothing contained in this article constitutes a recommendation or endorsement by Nelnet Bank. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consult with a qualified professional.