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The Financial Aid Maze: Making Sense of It All

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[...] my experience in both the college admissions and financial aid arenas is that most students do have the opportunity to pursue a college education and usually at one of their top choice institutions. What I want to emphasize here is that the basic premise of financial aid is that you and your parents are the primary source of funds for your post-secondary education and are expected to contribute to the extent that you and your parents are able. Federal regulations prevail and institutional policies and procedures guide financial aid administrators in their decision-making process.

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									SBOCS&CG

The Financial Aid Maze:
Making Sense of It All
BY JOSEPH J. MARTINKOVIC




O
          ne of the most troubling questions college-bound
          students are faced with as they consider pur-
          suing higher education is: “What if my
          parents can’t afford to send me to col-
lege?” Well, that certainly can happen and for a
variety of reasons. But my experience in both the
college admissions and financial aid arenas is that
most students do have the opportunity to pursue a
college education and usually at one of their top choice
institutions.


                                             cal college. Not only does it help your        upon the availability of financial aid
The Basic Premise                            family out financially but it also shows        funds at respective institutions.
    Just what is this magical and mysti-     your family your commitment and de-
cal thing called financial aid? Well, the     termination (and they just might go that
easiest way to describe it is that finan-     extra mile to help you get to where you        Types of Financial Aid
cial aid is money applied against your       want to go). I’ve found that students who          There are three types of financial
college costs to help you obtain your        buy into their education tend to benefit        aid: gift aid, loan aid and work aid.
college education. What I want to em-        more from their education. After all, it is    Let’s take a brief look at each type.
phasize here is that the basic premise of    an investment in your future.                      Gift aid is by far the most popular and
financial aid is that you and your par-           One thing’s for sure – financial aid        sought-after type of financial aid. Gift aid
ents are the primary source of funds for     is not an entitlement program. Simply          usually takes the form of a grant or schol-
your post-secondary education and are        stated, there are no guarantees since          arship. The best part of this type of award
expected to contribute to the extent         everything is contingent upon funding.         is that it doesn’t have to be paid back (I
that you and your parents are able.          Federal regulations prevail and insti-         guess that’s why they call it a gift). If you
    Did you notice I threw in the word       tutional policies and procedures guide         are applying for need-based financial aid,
“you”? I think it’s extremely important      financial aid administrators in their           gift aid based on need is usually called a
that you contribute financially toward        decision-making process. You need to           grant. If, for example, you are musically
your education in some way. You could        know that you and your family will             talented and plan to pursue music as a
work a part-time job and save to pay for     have to contribute something toward            college major or a career, you may be of-
books and supplies, or help with your liv-   your education and perhaps, in some            fered a talent scholarship. Scholarships
ing expenses if you live in campus hous-     cases, the whole enchilada. But there          may be based more on your ability, tal-
ing, or cover your weekly travel expenses    are opportunities that exist that aim to       ent, or skills than on your financial need.
if you’re commuting from home to a lo-       help as much as possible, contingent           The same is true if you’re an exceptional

                                                                                           SBO College Search & Career Guide 2010 13
student scholastically in high school.            fered a Federal Perkins Loan or a sub-              on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly or
Some colleges and universities acknowl-           sidized Federal Stafford Loan. Both of              monthly). Some colleges will allow you
edge students’ hard work and efforts and          these programs 
								
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