Financial Aid For Your Freshman Year of College
Last updated November 8, 2022
Whether you're heading off to a four-year college or are attending a community college, there are a few important things you should do during the summer after your senior year of college to ensure your financial aid is in order for the fall.
File your FAFSA
The FAFSA is open annually from October 1 - June 30. If you have not filed your FAFSA yet, now is the time to do it! The FAFSA helps schools determine how much money you will need to cover the cost of your education. It is used to award you federal grants and loans, scholarships, work-study, as well as tell schools what you and your family can reasonably contribute to your education annually.
Note: Because the FAFSA requires a Social Security Number, undocumented students are not eligible to complete it. Many states offer their own financial aid forms that undocumented students can fill out to receive aid for college - look up your state's Department of Education website to learn more.
Read your tuition bill & financial aid award letter
Each admitted student will receive a bill from a school that outlines exactly what their tuition will cost for the upcoming school year. This tuition bill will include the cost of tuition as a full or part-time student, room and board, student fees, and additional costs. It's important to know exactly what you are responsible for paying as you prepare to head off to school - so if you have any questions, call the school's financial aid office and speak to someone! They're there to help.
Once you know exactly what it costs to attend school in the fall, compare your financial award letter to your tuition bill to see if there are any shortfalls in aid. Unless you received a “full ride” scholarship to your school (aka your tuition is completely paid for), there might be a gap in what the school awarded you in financial aid and what you will need to pay to cover the full cost of tuition. If there is a gap, you have a few options:
1. Reach out to the school's financial aid office to request a Change in Circumstances form - this form is a formal request for the school to take a closer look at your family's financial situation and make adjustments to your financial aid offer (hopefully, offering you more aid after). There are certain eligibility requirements to be considered for more financial aid - such as job loss, change in family income, changes in marital status, and more.
3. Consider getting a part-time job: either through the federal Work-Study program or an off-campus job in retail, food service, customer service, and more. The money you earn from these jobs can help pay for essential college expenses.
Learn the requirements to keep your financial aid
In order to receive financial aid each year of college, you will need to renew your FAFSA annually. You can complete the FAFSA as early as October 1, so we recommend you submit it as soon as possible to secure financial aid for the following school year. You will also need to find out what academic requirements must be met to keep your aid, as many school and private scholarships require you to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) in college in order to keep the scholarship. If your GPA drops below that minimum, you might lose the scholarship and be responsible for paying the difference in your tuition yourself.
Some forms of financial aid might require you to be enrolled in a certain number of credits at school. Most often, you are required to be enrolled as a full time student (at least 12 credit hours each semester) to continue receiving financial aid. If for any reason you have to drop a class and fall below the enrollment requirement, you might receive a reduction in your financial aid. Be sure to check in about all of these requirements to know what to expect in case something unexpected comes up.
Learning how to budget and save money is not only essential to paying for college, it's an important life skill! Even if your full tuition for freshman year is covered, there are other expenses as a student - like textbooks, school supplies, personal expenses, transportation, social activities, and more. Learn more here about how to create a budget, and be sure to check out our free financial literacy resources to learn more about mastering your money!
Have any questions about financial aid, getting a job, or financial literacy? Text us! Send #Hello to 33-55-77 to speak with one of our College & Career Advisors!