Our Panel of Financial Aid Experts:
Feel like you could use a little time in College Finance 101? You've come to the right place. We asked financial aid experts from four Christian colleges to answer the questions people ask most frequently—in language we can understand.
Director of Financial Aid at Biola University in La Mirada, California
Executive Director of Financial Aid at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania
Director of Financial Aid at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa
Director of Financial Aid at Hannibal La-Grange University in Hannibal, Missouri
If you've started your search for college cash, you're probably feeling like you've stumbled into a foreign language class. You've almost certainly got some questions: What exactly is a FAFSA? Should I take out loans for college? Who should I ask if I have questions about financial aid forms?
All this financial aid talk has my head spinning. Is there someone who can walk me through it?
Mrs. Blackwell: That's what we financial aid counselors are here for! It's our job to walk students through the financial aid maze from start to finish and calculate individual financing packages for each student.
Mr. Butler: There are many resources available to help students. There are online budget calculators for each state, scholarship databases, and a multitude of other websites. It can be overwhelming, but the financial aid counselor at your chosen school will be your tour guide through it all. If you have a question, call and ask. Don't feel like you're being a pest. If your financial situation changes in a way that affects your ability to afford school, let us know. If you don't understand something, speak up. The more information you give us, the more we'll be able to help you.
Where do I start looking for financial aid?
Mrs. Blackwell: Begin at your guidance counselor's office. Let your counselor know you're interested in hearing about any and all scholarships that come across their desk. You should probably do this during your junior year. Get to know your guidance counselor—they should know you by name because they see you in their office so often!
During your senior year, get in touch with the financial aid offices at any schools you're considering and let them know you're looking at them. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know anything about paying for college. They'll be happy to help.
Ms. Ellix-Foultz: All roads to financial aid begin and end with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), because federal, state and institutional programs all look at your FAFSA to determine your financial need. The FAFSA is a must for any student seeking financial help to attend college. You'll also want to call the financial aid offices at the schools you're considering and ask for any additional forms that institution requires, because each school has its own forms and deadlines. Don't rule out any school you'd really like to attend because you think you can't afford it. Sometimes the schools that cost more also offer more aid. (For more information on the FAFSA, see the definition in Terms to Know, page 12.)
When should I start looking for aid?