March 2019
Questions to Ask Your Financial Aid Office
Asking questions of the financial aid office can feel intimidating. However, financial aid staff want to connect with students as it is important to them that students and their families understand the financial aid process and are able to maximize their financial aid eligibility. Every financial aid office operates a little differently and knowing what to expect will help students receive their financial aid in a timely manner and make navigating the process easier.

Here are five questions students should be sure to ask the financial aid office at each of their prospective schools.
1. How will you communicate with me?
The financial aid office may need information from you before they can process your financial aid or may simply want to provide you with an update. Some schools send out paper letters, while others will email you using your school email address (each school has their own email system so be sure to set your email up and check it regularly). Most schools have a student portal (website) where you can find important information, including a “to do” list. If you know how your school plans to communicate with you, you’ll know where to look for important financial aid messages and information.
2. Will my aid change from year to year?
Once you receive your award letter, review it carefully. Be sure you understand what you have to do to receive the funds and if the funds will be available in the same amounts each year. Sometimes scholarships are renewable, but may require that you earn a minimum grade point average to continue to receive them. If you have a scholarship based on your major and change majors, your eligibility could be impacted. It’s a great idea to think ahead and develop a plan for paying for your entire education when you receive that first financial aid award letter!
3. How will outside scholarships impact my financial aid?
Federal and institutional regulations sometimes require schools to adjust your financial aid if you are awarded additional aid from other sources. If you receive outside scholarships, contact your school as soon as possible to see if adjustments are required. If changes are needed, ask if your loans or work-study can be adjusted before any grants or scholarships. Also be sure to let your school know about expenses you have, such as the purchase of a new computer, as recognizing those expenses might allow you to keep more aid. Connect with your school as early as possible as during the summer because more options exist at that time and planning ahead will be easier.
4. Does the school have a tuition payment plan?
If there is a balance due after financial aid, how will you pay? Before borrowing loans, ask if a tuition payment plan is available. Tuition payment plans cover more than just tuition and allow you to pay all or a portion of the balance over a period of months. Unlike loans, tuition payment plans don’t charge interest and typically require only a small enrollment fee. Any amount paid through a tuition payment plan can help reduce borrowing.
5 . Is there any way I can receive more aid?
Keep in mind, all the financial aid office knows about your family’s financial situation is what was on your financial aid application(s). If there are additional financial circumstances, like large medical bills or other nondiscretionary expenses, be sure to share that information with the financial aid office. Also, if the current circumstances are different than when you filed your financial aid application, provide the office with an update. In these situations, the financial aid office may decide that updates to your information are needed that could result in additional financial aid eligibility. Even if changes aren’t appropriate, the financial aid office may be aware of additional options, such as scholarships available through the school that require a separate application.
Knowing how you’re going to pay for your education is critical to successfully completing college. Building a relationship with your financial aid office and asking the right questions now can help you achieve your college dreams and put you on the path to future success.
Want More Information?
Join us for this month's FREE Wednesday Webinar:

Tips from Financial Aid Professionals
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
10:00–11:00 a.m.

Have you wondered "What impacts the amounts and types of aid students receive at each school?," or "What can students do to maximize their financial aid?," or “What is the best way to communicate with the Financial Aid Office?" Do you have a question about how financial aid is awarded? Each school’s Financial Aid Office works in a unique way to serve their students. Join us for a panel discussion on the inner workings of financial aid offices. If there is a topic you want us to discuss you’ll have the opportunity to submit it when you register. 
For additional helpful information and resources, find  previous issues of 5 on the 5th on our website.

FAME's College Access and Financial Education Team:

Mila Tappan, College Access and Outreach Manager
Jessica Whittier, College Access Counselor 
Nikki Vachon, College Access Counselor
Maria MacDougal, College Access Counselor
Floreka Malual, College Planning Advisor
Mary Dyer, Financial Education Officer
Jennifer Lanphear, Education Programs Officer
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