With the June 30 deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) quickly approaching, time is running out for students who need financial help for the 2016-2017 academic year.
For new and returning students, beginning a new semester means beginning a new round of paperwork for course scheduling, financial aid, and healthcare information.
Although many students are able to navigate the process of entering—or reentering—college life somewhat seamlessly, there are several who hit snags when they arrive on campus that may keep them out of their first few days of class.
Here are a few of the common missteps that can cause undue stress for new and returning students in the early days of the semester, and how to avoid them.
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Complete the financial aid process
Students unfamiliar with the college financial aid process often arrive on campus when their financial aid award has not yet been processed.
Make sure you’ve completed your FAFSA and turned in all the required paperwork before you step onto campus. If you still haven’t received an award notification, contact your school’s financial aid office as soon as possible.
Make sure housing information is in order
If you’re planning on being a campus resident, pay attention to registration requirements and deadlines. Student housing often fills up quickly, so if you dally you may miss out.
If you’re going to be off-campus, make sure you’ve cemented your living arrangements before the start of the semester. As with campus housing, the best locations near college campuses often fill up quickly.
Also, the first few days of class are already stressful. You won’t need the added strain of apartment hunting.
Take care of medical requirements
For new students, before you are able to begin your classes, you’ll need to get your immunizations taken care of. Returning students should be all set as far as checkups and immunizations are concerned.
But students at most universities are required to either accept or decline their school’s health insurance before the beginning of each semester.
If you have another form of health insurance (either your own or your parents’), you’ll still have to decline coverage. Otherwise you may end up paying hundreds of dollars extra for healthcare coverage you don’t need.
Make sure you close the “gap”
A common misconception is that if students are awarded scholarships or financial aid, they are automatically covered for the entirety of their tuition and fees for the coming academic year.
This is not necessarily so.
Often students are not allowed to register for classes—or their classes are purged before the start of the semester—because the balance of tuition and fees left over after financial aid and scholarships have been awarded is left unpaid.
Photo courtesty of Flickr.
There are several options to close the gap. But the most common is taking out a student loan to cover the difference.
If you do arrive on campus with an unmet financial need, make sure you visit the financial aid office to register for a payment plan as soon as possible. This allows students to make smaller payments to get into class until loans or additional financial aid awards are available.
College is expensive, making the topic of financial aid a very important one. The term itself makes most students panic. To help deflate this anxiety, we offer 5 helpful tips to get you started.
As anyone who has gone through the college application process is painfully aware, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not only the portal through which students can access Uncle Sam’s $150 billion pot of available grants, loans, and work-study funds, many states, schools, and private scholarships require applicants to first submit the FAFSA to determine how much, if any, financial aid they may offer.
But, could the tiresome, tedious, but oh-so-financially-rewarding exercise of filling out the FAFSA be simplified?
Theoretically, yes. But the real-world answer is a bit complicated.