1 Million Dollars

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Financial Aid and the FASFA

We are lucky to be considered independent student but for most students under 24, they are dependent students and the government expects their parents to contribute towards the cost of college.  This means that your parents income and assets are counted as well as your own.  It also means that most of your assets are expected to go towards college spending, not just your income for that year.
Before I go into what a dependent student should do to shelter money, determine if you are a dependent or independent student.

The Following Questions Determine If You Are An Independent Student

  1. Are you 24 year of age or older?
  2. Are you married?
  3. Are you enrolled in a master or doctorate program?
  4. Do you have children who receive more than half of their support form you?
  5. Do you have dependents other than your children or spouse who live with you?
  6. Are you an orphan or ward of the state?
  7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
If none of these apply, then according to the federal government, you are a dependent student.  However, many medical programs still require you to include your parent's income and assets, which may be something to consider, if you are picking a medical school.
As a dependent student there are different rules than an independent student because the dependent student is expected to use most of his or her assets to pay for college but the independent student is not.

If you have been determined to be a dependent student, first be aware that the law has changed.  It used to be that if your parents refused to fill out the FAFSA, you were not eligible for any aid.  The federal government has figured out that perhaps that may not be right, since every student is eligible for unsubsidized loans regardless of income or assets.  Now you can fill out the FAFSA without your parent's income and assets and still get unsubsidized student loans.

But often that is not enough.  What to do?  If you are eligible for work-study, TAKE IT! Work study is the only work you can do that won't be counted against you for future aid.  Often you must accept work study NOW to get the good jobs on campus because for many universities, the good jobs go quick.  The other option is to ask your department if they have any jobs that can be paid via work study.  I was able to work in the statistics lab which improved my CV as an undergraduate because I had work study, normally the coordinator only took Master's students.

While you are there, ask about scholarships.  Our department had three $500 scholarships only for declared majors.  The biology department had more.  My community college had all the scholarships within the financial aid office, but neither of my universities (undergraduate or graduate) run scholarships through there.  But, don't assume, check with the financial aid office too. 

This is the time to apply for aid both loans and scholarships and prepare for next year, which includes applying for summer internships and jobs.  Don't wait to the school year is over, you will be behind.  So, everyone let's be about it.*  Post if you have other ideas for preparing for next year.

*A prize for the first person to who recognizes the series that quote was from and post it.

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