04.26.11 | Appealing a Financial Aid Offer – Can it be Done?

Posted in FAFSA, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

For most families, the act of opening the financial aid offer letter is a harrowing one. In just a few short sentences they will see how much a college or university is willing to offer in the way of student loans and scholarships. But what happens when that figure is too low?

Believe it or not, a student aid package that offered less than expected does not necessarily mean the end of the road. In some cases, a borrower can appeal to the school for more money. So how can this be done?

When to Appeal

For starters, strike the word “negotiate” from your vocabulary. If you call a financial aid office and tell them you want to negotiate your student loan package, it will be a very short phone call.  You are not negotiating. You are “appealing.” There is a difference. The first step is to call the financial aid office and inquire about the process of submitting an appeal. Most likely, you will be asked to write a letter explaining, in detail, why you feel the aid package should be reconsidered.

Your appeal letter will explain, in brief, the grounds on which you are appealing the financial aid offer. You should decide early on whether this an appeal for need or for merit, or for both. If it is an appeal for need, you must demonstrate to the school that your federal aid package simply isn’t enough for you to afford attending the school. More than likely, a successful appeal based on need will cover a recent change in your financial situation, such as a series of expensive medical bills or a parent losing his or her job. You will need evidence to back up your claim, including copies of bills and pay stubs.

You may also appeal on the grounds of merit. An exceptional student may be eligible for various scholarships or grants. Look into the criteria for these awards. The best evidence to appeal on these grounds is a stronger scholarship offer from a similar school.

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04.05.11 | Not Enough Aid? What to do Next

Posted in Financial Aid, Private Student Loans, Scholarships by Student Loan Network Staff

So you’ve gotten your financial aid award package from your schools but you didn’t get as much federal aid as you had hoped. Now what? Well, there are some other financial options for you to consider.

Scholarships

Scholarships can be a great way to fill the gap between the aid you received and the aid you need. ScholarshipPoints.com gives away monthly $1,000 scholarships, and the best part is, it’s open to all students enrolled in college! There are none of the restrictions that most other scholarships have, if you participate, you can win! The program is pretty simple too- you earn points by completing surveys, or reading blogs, then you can enter these points into our monthly drawings! Easy as pie. PLUS, there are quarterly $10,000 drawings, so there’s really no reason no to join.
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03.10.11 | Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

One of the most common issues students deal with revolves around the FAFSA filing status. Many students feel they should be considered independent, yet the FAFSA still requires them to file as dependent. Under special circumstances, students have the ability to appeal their dependency status. For those students who believe their circumstances qualify them for financial independence (for FAFSA purposes), I’m going to walk you through how to do this, including what documents you may need. If you don’t know your current status, read our post on Dependent VS. Independent Status.

What types of situations can be appealed?

First thing’s first, if your sole reason for filing an appeal is that you support yourself or that your parents refuse to support your education, then you will not qualify for an appeal. However, other circumstances are considered. Some common reasons for appealing dependency include:

  • Abandonment
  • Danger of physical or mental abuse
  • Your parents (or parent for single parent family) are incarcerated
  • Your supporting parent is deceased and you have no contact with the other

Keep in mind, these are not the only reasons that are accepted as schools differ in their requirements. If you’re not sure if your particular situation qualifies, you should contact a financial aid officer from your school.

How to appeal

Each school has specific guidelines for the appeals process, and in some cases, there are school-specific forms you will need to fill out. Most of the time you can find the qualifications and forms on the school’s website. However, the one thing that most schools ask for is a letter from the student explaining their circumstances. In this letter, make sure to be specific! After all, you’re arguing your case, so the more information you provide, the better. Included in this letter should be 1) why your parents aren’t helping 2) information regarding your income and what your money is allotted for and 3) your educational goals, explaining why more money is necessary to achieve them through your institution. Each situation is different, so tailor the letter to you and what your needs are. Along with this letter, it is important to provide as much documentation as possible to back up your claim. Acceptable documentation includes (but is not limited to):

  • Letters attesting to a student’s situation: Most schools require students to submit letters from independent sources. These can be from almost anyone who knows your story- ministers, friends, non-parental relatives, guidance counselors, attourneys etc. These letters should explain the writer’s relationship to the student, and like the student’s letter, provide as much detail as possible about the student’s situation. Depending on school guidelines, these may need to be notarized.
  • Bank statements
  • W2s
  • Court documents/ police reports
  • Documentation of parental incarceration
  • Death certificates

What now?

Once all of your required documents have been submitted, all you can do is wait. Depending on your school, your appeal will be reviewed by a financial aid officer or panel of officers who will work with the Department of Education to change your status (hopefully). It is possible that more documentation may be required, and if this is the case, you will be contacted. If you do need to provide more, don’t panic! Simply provide the requested documents and wait it out. Note: If you are approved for a certain year, this does not mean that you are approved for upcoming years as well. For future academic years, you will need to appeal again!

Navigating the FAFSA to get adequate financial aid can be a nightmare for some students, so appealing dependency status may be the difference between going to school or not. If you have any specific questions about your school’s process, they should be directed to your financial aid office. Good luck!

02.23.11 | Understanding the Financial Aid Roadmap

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

Applying for and receiving financial aid can be a long and confusing process, but don’t fret, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled information on all of the steps necessary for receiving financial aid to help answer your most common questions. The financial aid roadmap outlines all of the steps you should take, from how to fill out your FAFSA to tips on comparing financial aid packages.

So, what are the steps?

  1. Prepare for, and fill out your FAFSA form
  2. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)
  3. Compare your award letters and financial aid packages
  4. Review your federal loan options and contact your financial aid office to accept
  5. Apply for additional aid to cover your full cost of tuition

Now that you have the entire process at your fingertips, make sure to start early! It’s important to file your FAFSA as soon as possible so that you can receive maximum aid and be on your way to that college degree.

02.11.11 | To Claim or not to Claim: College Loans and Taxes

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Scholarships, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Student Loan Taxes Can be ConfusingIt’s tax season again and one of the most common questions from students right now is whether or not they have to claim their financial aid (grants, loans, or scholarships) on their taxes. So to clarify, students have to claim on their IRS tax forms any money gained from services for which they received payment, investments, and self-employment income. Generally, amounts spent on education, scholarships, grants, and loans are non-taxable, though there are some exceptions. To note, most tax-free treatment of income, credits, and deductions require the student to be a degree candidate, but not all. (more…)

12.12.10 | Top 5 End of year financial aid strategies

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Source: FAFSA blog

As we approach the end of calendar year 2010, it’s a good idea to turn our eyes to the future and start thinking about our 2008 financial aid efforts. Here are 5 strategies to help you make the most of the waning days of 2010 with payoffs in the year to come.

1. See an expert. Most community banks and credit unions offer access to a certified financial planner for little or no charge, making them a great, hidden resource for figuring out your finances. Take the opportunity and an hour or two on a weeknight or weekend to see one and review your personal finances. Get a sense for where you are and how your finances are currently set up.

2. Start writing scholarship essays. Scholarship season really starts in earnest in January of each year, and the sooner you can get your applications in to a scholarship foundation, the sooner you can move onto the next application. Do your research for which scholarships would be appropriate to apply to, and download their applications. The most time consuming part of the scholarship search is the essay, so start writing now!

3. Do your budget. January is often thought of as the time to embark on resolutions, but now is the time to plan for those resolutions so you can hit the ground running after the champagne’s gone.

4. Set goals. Set measurable, achievable goals for yourself in 2011, like a scholarship application a weekend. Be sure to have a calendar set up so you don’t miss any deadlines.

5. Get ready to file your FAFSA. The FAFSA process kicks off on January 1, but having your IRS 1040 mostly done will speed up the process, as will doing the FAFSA worksheets. Run through our FAFSA tutorials here on FAFSAonline.com and make notes of where you have questions – then contact your financial aid officer or attend a College Goal Sunday event to get those questions answered!


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09.13.10 | What the FAFSA? Words of Wisdom about the Financial Aid Form

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

In my previous post, I gave a quick run down of the types of financial aid that I can apply for to help finance my education. Applying for federal aid will be my first step, so I want to start preparing my FAFSA form.

Why do I need to fill out a FAFSA form?

In order to qualify for federal aid for students, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to the U.S. Department of Education. This form is used to calculate your financial aid eligibility based on the financial and demographic information for you and your family.

Once complete, the Department of Education will forward a record of the application to the school/schools you specify.

What can I do now to prepare my FAFSA?

While the FAFSA needs to be filed with your 2010 tax information (which you won’t get until at least January of next year), it is recommended that you get a head start on gathering the right information now. In fact, most of what you’ll need for the FAFSA can be taken care of now. You can also estimate your tax information based on this years forms, however, this is only recommended if you can make a very accurate guess.

Below is a check list for what you and your family can do now to prepare early for the college financial aid application process:

Financial Aid Deadlines: Begin gathering the deadlines for your financial aid applications. Each school may have different deadlines.

Tax Information: Grab your 2010 tax forms, and anything else you are preparing for 2011 as well. You’ll receive your W2′s in February of next year and you may want to update your FAFSA when that information arrives.

Asset and Demographic Information: This where you list the financial details about you and your family, including your assets and demographic information. For help with what this will entail, visit FAFSAOnline.com and send your parents here.

School List: You can tell the Department of Education to send your results to a maximum of 10 schools. You will have to list the schools by their school code, which can be found here: FAFSAOnline.com – School Code List. When you’re looking into schools and noting their deadlines, make sure you find their code as well.

FAFSA Pin: Both you and your parents need to sign up for a FAFSA Pin #. This number will be used to identify you throughout the application process, and you can get it early and put it away in a safe place!

Ok, now go! You can download the FAFSA form now. You may file it early, but you will have to then update the forms next year with your new tax information.

08.31.10 | Crash Course in Financial Aid for a Newbie

Posted in Financial Aid, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

My mission: In one month, learn everything there is to know about the financial aid process, and federal student aid programs so that I can get a jump start on my applications.

Armed with: ejacobs (Student Advocate from FinancialAidForum.com), a variety of web resources that I found from the Student Loan Network, some books and packets, federal student aid guides, the web-o-sphere, and my peers.

Reason: I’d like to go back to school, but I’m not swimming in cash. I recently read that incoming students often underestimate how much financial aid they will get from the government and fail to take advantage of it. I’m determined to find the maximum amount of aid possible for my situation.

There are a variety of online resources I found helpful in the start of my learning process, and I will share some of them with you below. (more…)

08.25.10 | Get a Private Student Loan to Pay for School

Posted in Financial Aid, Private Student Loans, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Hey, fellow college kids! It’s the time of year again for school to start. Are you wondering how you’ll be able to pay for it? Don’t let a school’s price tag or lack of financial aid scare you away. Be sure to look into getting a private student loan.

Private student loans are offered by a wide variety of companies, and allow users to borrow up to the full cost of their education.  Besides your actual school tuition, you can also use a private student loan for textbooks, housing, meals, and any other school-related fees. Unlike federal loans, interest rates for private student loans vary, and there are absolutely no deadlines. While scholarship applications and FAFSA enforce deadlines, you can apply for a private student loan at any time.

To qualify for a private student loan, you need to be a United States citizen or permanent resident applying alongside a co-signer with good credit history, and be enrolled in school at least half time.  Find out what your options are now!

03.24.10 | Federal loan package not enough? What now?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Private Student Loans, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

If you have recently been disappointed with your financial aid award letter, you might be left wondering how you can cover some of the costs of tuition. What if the federal Stafford loan simply isn’t enough?

Rest assured, you’re not alone. In the vast majority of cases, a Stafford loan will not cover the entire cost of attendance. If your federal aid is less than you hoped, you may seek out alternative options. Private student loans are a common supplement to federal loans as they are based on credit, not need. You can learn more at PrivateStudentLoans.com.

In some cases, there has been a change to your situation since you filled out your FAFSA.  If a parent has since become unemployed or suffered another financial setback, you may be able to request additional funds. You should speak with your school’s financial aid office as they will work to secure you additional federal loans. Be prepared to provide paperwork to support your case (pay stubs, etc.).