Tracy Reisinger, financial aid director, shared insights on getting financial aid for college with listeners of The Buzz (105.1 FM) in February 2016.
“It’s not as scary as it seems,” Reisinger said. “It can be kind of an intimidating process, but we try to help people through it.”
In the interview, Reisinger breaks down the types of aid:
- “free money” — grants, scholarships
- self-help aid — federal student loans, federal work-study
and the processes:
- applying for financial aid through your school (completing the FAFSA)
- seeking out, and applying for various scholarships available (easier now via reputable online scholarship search engines)
- completing the verification process, if necessary
Reisinger offers details on:
- what information you need to have to complete the applications
- when to apply for aid to ensure best chances to get aid
- what the federal government is looking for on the FAFSA to determine eligibility for financial aid
- understanding the difference between “good debt” and “bad debt”
- how to find out from your college what other applications you need to complete to be considered for financial aid offered through the school
“Never, ever pay a fee,” Reisinger warns of some of the scholarship search sites out there. Reputable sites will not charge a fee, and students can find virtually all scholarships there, she says.
When choosing a college, be sure to look at the total cost of the degree program, she cautions. “A lot of schools, their tuition is pretty low, but they also tack on a lot of different fees,” she explains. Books, room and board, and other ancillary expenses are all part of the total cost of earning a degree.
Finally, when evaluating financial aid package offers from schools, don’t just look at the scholarships provided, Reisinger says. Figure out what your entire debt and out-of-pocket expenses will be to complete the degree program. Look at the renewal criteria for the scholarship. “If the scholarship is specific to the major, do you risk losing that, or will the school try to help you replace it if you switch majors?”