It seems like more and more people are going back to school to either finish their degree or to get another one. Non-traditional student populations are on the rise all over the country. With many non-traditional students having not been in school for years, I want to go over a few last-minute financial tips.
Make sure the FAFSA is complete
You would think having a completed FAFSA on file would be a given, but it’s not. I’ve worked in a financial aid office for a few years now and at the beginning of every semester I talk with a few non-traditional students who have yet to complete their FAFSA. Some of those students claim that they are too busy with work and claim to forget to do it. For others, this is their first time in college, so they didn’t know about it. If you want to receive any federal funds you want to make sure that you complete your FAFSA. It takes less than an hour to complete. Once it’s processed, it shows you if you qualify for loans and grants.
Review your award and accept
After you complete your FAFSA, you will be awarded. Many students are typically awarded the Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans and the Pell grant. Other money that a student may receive is the Perkins loan (if the university offers it) and the SEOG grant. Review your award letter and accept the student loans if you need them.
During my time as a financial aid counselor, I’ve seen that the majority of non-traditional students are awarded more loans than any other type of aid. That’s because many of them either have an undergrad degree, or they are working on degree number two or three. The undergrad limit for student loans is $57,500. That’s a lot of money to have to pay back.
If you choose not to accept your student loans, you can pay for your classes yourself. Everyone may not be able to do that, but if you can, go for it. By doing that, you don’t have to worry about student loan debt. Many schools offer a payment plan. You have to pay a percentage of the tuition by the payment deadline; then you can pay the rest before the semester is over. That is another way to lower the risk of having student loan debt
Non-traditional students can also look for scholarships. Scholarships are free money that you don’t have to pay back. Many non-traditional students believe that because they are older that they can’t receive scholarships. While that may be true for some, not all scholarships are like that. Check with your financial aid office and see what options are out there.
Many non-traditional students work full-time. Did you know that your job may help you pay for school? Many companies offer some sort of tuition assistance to their employees. Requirements to receive the money are different for each company as well as the amounts. Check with your employer today to see if they offer tuition reimbursement.
Going back to school is a good thing. I’m a fan of continuous learning. Knowledge truly is power. I want every student to have a smooth first day of class. You shouldn’t have to worry about financial aid issues.