Friday, November 9, 2012

Aid Me With Some Aid

In today’s economy, most students and parents are looking for some type of financial aid to offset the costs of college (tuition, fees, books, housing, food, travel, and even recreation).  We’ve all been told that there is money out there.  But where?

From years of working in student recruitment and scholarships, I would like to offer some suggestions that may help you along the way.  

Disclaimer: I don’t profess to have all the answers and the magic key or source to funding.  But I have discovered a few simple things that parents and students can do to help in the process of discovering aid.  Additionally, Utah State University would encourage all students to apply.  Truth be told, not all students will be Aggies.  So the following recommendations are meant for all students, regardless of where they enroll. 

      Be in the Know

a.       Deadlines.  Know the deadlines.  Deadlines often determine the outcomes and many students miss out on financial aid because they simply miss a deadline.  These deadlines apply to scholarships, as well as general financial aid (loans, grants, & work-study).
b.      People.  Know the right people.  Call and introduce yourself to your specific financial aid counselor (or admissions counselor) at your school.  If they don’t know you and your situation, you have missed out on one of the great resources available to you.
c.       Scholarships.  Know what you are applying for.  Is this an academic, involvement, leadership, service, or alumni scholarship?  If so, focus on that key concept.  Selection committees are keenly looking for information and answers to reaffirm your involvement in said application.  Don’t ramble.  Be direct and make your answers personable.
d.      Federal Aid.  Know what type of aid is available.  Federal financial aid consists of loans, grants, and work-study.  When applying, apply for all options.  It doesn’t cost to apply and you can always decline an offer when presented with it.

        Federal Aid

a.       Be educated.  If you are like most individuals, you have spent a lot of time on admission related issues: grades, tests, activities, college visits, essay writing, etc.  Focusing on financial aid should be considered early.
b.      Know your EFC (Expected Family Contribution).  Your EFC should be known as you know your SAT or ACT scores.  Students are eligible for aid (grants, loans, work-study) if your EFC is less than the cost of attendance.  To determine this number, visit the EFC calculators at or
c.       Submit your taxes early.  You aren’t able to submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid, until you complete your taxes.  And as deadlines for FAFSA approach quickly each year, you should do your taxes as quickly as possible.  FAFSA application/submission date can make the difference in your award offer.
d.      Don’t be paranoid.  Some individuals don’t want to apply for federal aid as they may not trust the institution with financial records.  All data is maintained within the U.S. Department of Education and is not shared with other federal agencies. 
e.      Be prepared for verifications and complications.  Once you click submit and everything is turned in, expect to hear from university financial aid offices.  Don’t be concerned.  By working with the offices and providing the information requested (in a timely manner), it will actually help your case in receiving aid.
f.        Accepting Aid.  It is okay to accept a loan!  Many students want to graduate debt free.  But this isn’t a reality for everyone.  Before accepting a loan, visit with your financial aid counselor and understand the details of the loan.  I would also suggest you always accept a pell grant and work-study offer.

The most important thing I can suggest is to become acquainted with those involved in the awarding and decision-making process.  In an age of texting, Facebooking, and web browsing, many people overlook the importance of a face-to-face conversation.  When it comes to the opportunity of receiving thousands of dollars in aid, you don’t want to overlook any option that may increase your chances of receiving help.  That help is always found in people.

I am the youngest of four children and by the time I went to Utah State University, my parents had discovered the importance of the steps outlined above.  As a result, I received some aid that assisted me with my bachelors and masters.  It wasn’t always easy and at times I felt discouraged, but after working full time and looking back, I realize that the payoff for the amount of time invested was huge!  Accept my suggestion of putting in the time to see what your options will be.

Some helpful websites to remember:

        FAFSA Application: (never pay to apply for federal aid!)
        EFC Calculators: or
        USU Financial Aid Office:
o   Find helpful Q/As
o   Use hyperlinks to discover more suggestions and recommendations
o   Discover more about the awarding process at USU and then apply to your institution

Hopefully, this provides some information that will benefit you in your discovery.  If you are reading this and you are a senior in high school (or your son/daughter is a senior in high school), then don’t delay!  Now is the time to get answers to all of your questions!  Time is of the essence in receiving aid.

Craig Whyte
BS, 2004.  MBA, 2005
Utah State University

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