Fact or Fiction- Financial Aid Edition

When you’re going through the financial aid application process, there’s a good chance you will sift through a bunch of new information that might not make sense to you. You will certainly hear or read a bunch of conflicting statements regarding financial aid, and you might not know which ones to believe, and which ones to dismiss. We would like to set the record straight on some of these issues, so let’s play a game of “fact or fiction?”:

Financial aid can change from year-to-year, granting you less money than before.

FACT. Financial aid packages can change annually for a variety of reasons. If your family’s income or assets have gone up, then chances are your expected family contribution will increase. Financial aid can also drop off based on shifts in your university’s key statistics, such as a student population increase or a school endowment decrease. Additionally, students should beware of an unfortunate financial aid tactic known as the “bait and switch”, when schools offer generous award packages to lure you in as a freshman, but then significantly scale back in later years. Make sure to check out the policies at your school, and visit the financial aid office if you have any questions.

Each of the different types of federal financial aid requires a different application.

FICTION. By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you become eligible for all the federal, state, and institutional aid programs that are available to students. There’s no need to locate different applications for different federal programs—everything you need is bundled in one nice, intuitive form.

You should apply for federal financial aid even if there’s a probability that you won’t qualify for it.

FACT. This is the most important takeaway from this post. With the FASFA form being easier than ever to fill out, and with the application still being FREE, there is really no downside to applying for federal financial aid. Even if you expect to comfortably pay for college all 4 years, you should still apply—you never know what funds you will qualify for. If you haven’t applied for FAFSA yet, then do so RIGHT NOW, as funds are handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Applying for financial aid will affect your college acceptance decision.

DEPENDS. Okay, maybe we copped out of our own “fact or fiction” game with this answer, but it’s important to know that applying for financial aid MAY OR MAY NOT affect your admissions prospects, depending on the school itself. Some schools are need-blind, meaning that they will accept students regardless of your financial need. Other schools decide to meet the need of all accepted students, so the number of students admitted will be predicated on the total amount of financial aid available. Be sure to do your research and find out which category your preferred schools fit into.

By Brooke Cobb

Brooke Cobb is a Journalism graduate of West Virginia University’s class of 2012. She contributes to the College Money Insider blog in an effort to help others to learn from her own college money experiences, the good and bad!

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