With the start of a new school year right around the corner you’re probably already getting ready. Besides getting items for your dorm or picking up your books, you also are getting more paperwork from your school then you know what to do with!
Among that pile of paperwork, there are letters and documents concerning your school charges and your financial aid information. If you don’t want to have money surprises when you return back to school, it’s time to pull all those letters out and start reviewing them. But it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone when trying to navigate all that information. The best resource that you have (besides this website!) is the financial aid office at your school. That is what they are there for! In fact, many of the people who work in financial aid offices want to help you understand how your financial aid works.
Here are the tips to help you make the most of your visit to the financial aid office.
Preparing for a Financial Aid Office Meeting
Before you go to meet with your financial aid office (or FA office for short), there are a few things you want to do. The first thing you want to understand is that each college’s FA office is different. Some smaller schools walk you through your financial aid process from start to finish while others; large or small, will be in contact via email or snail mail with important information about deadlines or documents that need to be completed. Why’s it important to know how your school’s FA office operates? It helps you to prepare for your visit to the FA office. A larger school may not have as much time to sit down with you and assist you step by step so you want to make sure you prepare to make the most of your appointment with them. No matter what type of FA office you have the best thing to do is call and make an appointment. While most FA offices do have something like a walk-up window, this is often for quick questions or to hand in document. Scheduling a one on one appointment will ensure that you have enough time to get your questions answered.
Next, write down all your questions. While this may seem silly, it’s actually a great way for you to figure out what you are confused about. Maybe you are comfortable with filling out the FAFSA but you don’t understand how your student loans work. Or maybe you don’t know anything about how to apply for financial aid but you know how much your school is going to cost. Either way focusing on what you need to cover during your appointment will make the most of your time there and make sure you don’t miss anything!
Also, remember that the FA office is different than the student accounts office at your school or “bursar” as it is often called. The bursar is who bills you your tuition and other charges. If you have a direct question about your bill or something you were charged, that requires a visit to them. But if you are wondering about how much financial aid you are eligible for to cover those costs, then you want to visit your FA office.
See Part II – Meeting with your Financial Aid Adviser