Prepare for Upcoming Financial Aid Season
Understanding the Process is Key Say ICAN Experts
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Jan.12, 2012 – Understanding the financial aid process is
key to finding funds for college, according to experts at the Iowa College Access Network®
“If you know how each type of financial aid works, where to find it and when to apply for it,
you really improve your chances of receiving enough money to pay for your education,” said
Debbie Scholz, ICAN outreach representative.
Scholz said she and the ICAN outreach representatives, who provide college planning and
financial aid services and information, encourage students to do their research, starting with
a scholarship search as early as their sophomore or junior year in high school. “Spend a few
hours each month looking for scholarship opportunities in your community and state,”
Scholz said. “When it’s time to apply, you’ll have a long list and more chances for cash.”
Scholarships can be awarded through local, state, national and college organizations and
individuals for varying amounts of money. Each award has its own qualifications and
application process, but students don’t need to repay them as long as they continue to meet
the qualifications. Besides scholarships, students may be eligible for grants or work-study, as well as federal
student loans. Consideration for most of these is based on financial information provided by
students and families in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
“To maximize the amount of financial aid a student is eligible for, we recommend that every
student completes the FAFSA, no matter the family’s financial situation,” said Steven Loven,
ICAN site coordinator and financial aid expert. “Every student and every school is different.
Even if a family doesn’t qualify for need-based assistance, the FAFSA is also the application
for the best student loan rates.”
This form from the U.S. Department of Education should be filled out as soon after Jan.1 as
possible each year the student is attending college. It is available at www.fafsa.gov or by
calling (800) 4-FED-AID.
Grants, usually awarded by federal and state agencies and colleges, are often based on
financial need or academic qualifications. Deadlines vary, but candidates should file their
FAFSA as soon as they can after Jan. 1 for the best chances of receiving one or more.
Work-study programs allow students to work a part-time job on or near campus while
attending classes. Earnings are often used to cover personal expenses associated with
college, and many students gain valuable work experience. Federal work-study jobs are
awarded based on FAFSA information.
Students should exhaust all other financial aid options before they consider student loans
because loans must be repaid with interest. Federal loans, which typically have lower
interest rates and more repayment flexibility than private student loans, are often a better
financial deal for students. All federal loans are awarded based on FAFSA information.
To begin the FAFSA process, seniors and parents should request a federal personal
identification number at www.pin.ed.gov and gather the tax and financial information
required on the FAFSA, beginning now. ICAN representatives can help families with the
FAFSA and other financial aid questions for free.
Besides FAFSA-based awards and private scholarships, students should also visit the
financial aid office at any school they are considering attending, Scholz said. The staff there can tell students about other opportunities particular to that campus or community. The best
time to do this is during a campus visit, but students can ask for help up until and even after
they start classes.
For more information on the financial aid process, visit www.ICANsucceed.org or call an
ICAN location at (877) 272-4692 for free assistance.