Last week I talked to a bunch of you guys at the IPFW Financial Fair, and you provided me with a lot of good topics and questions you're interested in hearing about. This week, I'll be helping with a few of those questions the best I can.
Oh Crap, School Already Started and I Didn't Apply for Financial Aid
Some of you might have had this happen to you: you just moved into the dorm, you're taking classes, and suddenly you realize: you just started school and you have no way to pay for it.
Before you start panicking, there's good news: it's not too late to get financial aid. Yes, there are deadlines, and you will miss out on some options since you're applying late...however, there are still tons of opportunities, so never fear! Let's look at some of the possibilities:
Step 1) Fill out the FAFSA
It's never too late to fill out the FAFSA. This is the government's form to determine your financial need, and it's a great way to build a financial aid package. While it's probably too late to receive state and institution-specific aid, federal aid is still an option, and filling out the FAFSA is the way to tap into that.
Keep in mind, though, that your parents will need to help with the form to include some of their tax information. Also note that there are services that will help you complete the FAFSA, but they will charge a hefty fee.
Step 2) Talk to your Financial Aid office
Believe it our not, your financial aid office is there to help. They can help answer questions about the FAFSA, and they might be able to clue you into any specific opportunities your school has to offer. In most cases, your school has probably handed out all their scholarships by now, but it never hurts to check.
You can also ask them about a Work-Study program. You don't have to fill out a FAFSA to qualify for Work-Study, and your campus no doubt has jobs still available that will help you pay for college. Getting a campus job through Work-Study is a great way to help fund your education.
Step 3) Go for the money!
Once you've gotten a little more of an idea of what's available to you, go for the three-pronged attack:
Always start by getting as much free money as you can. At this point, the PELL Grant is probably the only thing available to you, and you apply for it by turning in the FAFSA. This is where you should start.
After your free money options have run out, look for cheap money. To great examples are the Stafford Loan, a federal loan with very low interest that you can get by completing the FAFSA, and a Work-Study program at your school.
If you're still short on funds, it's time to look for money to fill in that gap. At 3Rivers, for example, they offer excellent student choices to help meet your remaining need. Plus, they're super helpful and would love to go over your options with you if you contact them.
Just because you've already started school doesn't mean you don't have financial aid options. It may be a little more difficult, but there's still a lot of money out there to help you pay for college...you just have to look for it!