Students, parents, and guardians regularly ask questions about the financial aid process. Those questions begin as families work to complete the FAFSA for the first time and continue for the entire time a student is enrolled in college. Then, after graduation, students routinely seek advice as they check on upcoming student loan payments and may have new questions about graduate or professional school funding.
Although each student’s situation is unique, knowing how to respond to common financial aid questions can help you effectively advise the students you serve. Questions involving application status and refund status are very common, and the answers are rarely cut-and-dry. But even if you can’t offer students a firm “yes” or “no” — providing information specific to their situation can help ease confusion, as illustrated in the examples below.
In the United States, summer is time for a much-deserved school break, family vacations, and for many students — college campus tours.
In fact, some students visit so many colleges over the summer it’s dizzying. When I was an admission counselor at a university that saw more than 50,000 visitors per year, I often asked groups of students and families at our information sessions how many schools they had already visited. Usually it was a handful or two at most. But one time a girl raised her hand and had a jaw-dropping list of 35.
This is not a knock on the college tour. It can be a valuable tool in helping students decide which school is a good fit for them. But herein lies the challenge: The more schools you visit, the more they tend to sound — and look — the same. This makes it even more important to ask the right questions when you visit.
Students who go through the enrollment pipeline process, financial aid, and other related procedures will sometimes be faced with “holds,” specifically, administrative process holds.
Administrators typically place holds on a student’s online account to urge them to act on a variety of specific tasks (much of which is guided by a federal or an institutional policy). For example, students may need to complete their financial aid documents to pay for their courses on time, pay an outstanding balance, register for classes, or finalize their admission process.
It was the spring of 1985 and all I wanted was a Swatch watch. There wasn’t a specific one that I wanted; I just really wanted a Swatch. I had spent most of ‘84 ogling the bold plastic watches that I would see some of my lucky friend’s wear. In the mall we would walk past the glass display box in the department store on the way to the Naturalizer store for my mom’s beige work pumps. The loud colorful watches were screaming, “Look at me!” I always did. There were so many to choose from, too many. After what felt like years of asking and pleading for a Swatch, my mom finally agreed, but on one condition.
“If you clean up the yard, I’ll take you to pick out a Swatch.”
Two years after the world learned to use “quarantine,” “pivot,” “Zoom meetings,” and other words associated with adapting to the pandemic, some important terms that many students, families, and educators may not know much about — but have been around for a long time — are “tax credits” and, more specifically, “education tax credits.” Typically, words such as “taxes” and “IRS” are avoided unless speaking directly to a tax professional, but bringing awareness of the terms is crucial to helping families and educators learn about the benefits they offer.
“She’s quite a character.” “He’s a character actor.” “They are people of good character.”
We throw the word character around a lot, but what does it really mean? For the Character Collaborative—an organization of about 70 schools and colleges, as well as counselors, researchers, and associations committed to elevating attributes of character in the school and college admission process—character suggests features that distinguish an individual.
It took a lot of work to become a high-achieving high school senior.
You studied hard, got involved outside the classroom, and took pride in your accomplishments.
You are now in the middle of applying to numerous colleges and universities, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and having staff at your school talk to you about scholarship opportunities. You are being congratulated and celebrated by family, teachers, and community members for your hard work and good grades—and you might have been told that a college is sure to award you a large or full-ride scholarship due to your GPA and achievements.
As a financial aid administrator for 26 years, this is when I get concerned. The false presumption among many students that their top-choice college will surely offer them an attractive financial aid package too often leads to students spending little or no time applying for local scholarships.
The Biden administration recently announced the reconstitution of an office designed to safeguard taxpayer-funded student aid dollars and protect students from predatory colleges. The previous administration had “deprioritized” the department tasked with enforcement of student protection regulations within the Office of Federal Student Aid in a move viewed by pro-student advocates as enabling problematic behavior on the part of predatory colleges.
In 2010, the federal government eliminated the bank-based student loan program (formerly the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFELP) in favor of originating loans directly from the Department of Education). The move saved the federal government more than $10 billion in payments to banks—funding that has since been used to increase student aid. While the department serves as the loan originator, the role of servicing student loans was left to external entities.
You completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submitted all the needed paperwork.
Now you are enrolled in school and your friends are talking about getting a refund check. An email sent from your college says the funds will be available soon. Spring break is coming up and some of your friends are talking about going to the beach. Then you get another email from the campus housing office. They are asking you to save a few hundred dollars for the housing deposit for the upcoming fall semester.
Now you are curious. Is a refund going to be in your bank account? You may be wondering: “Is this extra money for me to spend?”