Financial aid is a process and completing each step is important, which is why INvestEd helps Indiana families finalize their paying for college plan. Timely review of key websites, responding to school requests for information, meeting deadlines and comparing award letters are critical elements to maximizing aid options and finalizing financial aid.
FAFSA’s Filed, Now What?
Log back into your FAFSA to view your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the federal processor’s review of your application. The SAR provides a variety of information regarding your application ranging from general comments, possible errors, and additional steps to take so schools can process your aid eligibility.
Indiana students should also register on eStudent, the state’s portal, to review details associated with your state grant eligibility. The site identifies any errors you need to address before the state’s deadline and allows you to track your state grants once they are calculated. All State of Indiana edits must be corrected by May 15th! Go to in.gov/CHE for more info!
Colleges may request additional information as they process your financial aid awards. Communications may be through a school portal, emails or letters. The key is to stay in contact with them and respond timely to their requests.
The Verification Process
The federal government requires that a percentage of students confirm their financial information through a process called verification. If you are selected for verification, don’t panic as it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong! It just means that the financial aid office at your college is required to gather some additional information before they can put together an accurate financial aid award for you. The most important thing is to get them the information they need by the requested deadline.
Typically the process includes verifying tax information. In many situations, the tax information can be provided in the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which transfers tax information from the IRS into your application. INvestEd created a step-by-step resource to help you use this tool. Once completed, you simply sign and resubmit the FAFSA.
You will be told by the school what, how and when they need the requested information. If you have questions, contact the financial aid office. INvestEd is always here to help as well, so don’t hesitate to connect with us!
Understanding the Bottom Line
As you finalize your college choice, understanding the true costs and aid is vital to making a wise decision. INvestEd encourages you to also look not only at the first year, but project the money needed to complete your degree. We provide some tools and key steps below to help you determine the best choice that minimizes debt and leads to degree completion!
COMPARE: The key is to understand your true costs for each school! As you receive financial aid award letters from colleges, compare the costs and aid. Make note of the free money versus loans, which have to be paid back. Determine how much of the cost of each school your family needs to cover. INvestEd created a College Cost Comparison Sheet to assist you in this part of the process. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) also has an online comparison tool which calculates the possible monthly loan repayment amounts for debt you may incur to attend each school.
UNDERSTAND: Education loans often become an unfortunate reality once a family compares financial aid versus cost at schools. A common misconception is that students can easily borrow what they need to go to school, which is why INvestEd created our Understanding Student Loans page. It clarifies the loan options that are available, who the borrower is, and includes our Student Loan Comparison Sheet to visually see the details side by side.
- When reviewing award offers, there are many elements and options to consider. Are there any renewal requirements for grants and scholarships for you to continue to receive them in future years? Is student employment an option? Are there any payment plans available? Any avenues that will help you minimize loan debt are good to consider and will help in putting your college funding puzzle together.
DECIDE: Once you have compared school options and understand the costs associated with each choice, you are prepared to make your final decision. You still have some key steps to take as you finalize your financial aid.
- Notify the school and confirm the steps needed to secure the financial aid offered. They will provide information on how to accept awards and secure any loans you decide are needed.
- Notify other schools of your decision so they can take the appropriate actions regarding your records.
- Notify your school of any scholarships you receive so they can note them and help with any paperwork needed to apply them toward your bill.
- If you’re living on campus, there may be housing forms or deposits required. Work with the appropriate offices so they know your housing plans and can help you through any process.
- Find out information on registering for classes and student orientation. Knowing how to get around a school and meeting fellow students is a great opportunity to start on the right foot.
- Work with the office that deals with student accounts so that you know when each term’s payment is due. Missing payment deadlines can cause issues with course registrations, housing, food and many other areas!
- If you plan to use student employment to help cover your expenses, find out the process to secure a student job. Start as early as possible to open up more opportunities for yourself.
As you work through finalizing your financial aid and paying for college plan, just remember you aren’t alone! INvestEd is here to help you each step of the way. Contact us!