Dispelling the Myths About College Financial Aid

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No one should let questions about money hold them back from receiving a college education. Unfortunately, there are some persistent myths that prevent would-be students from exploring their financial aid options. It’s a good time to dispel a few of these stubborn misconceptions.

Perhaps the most common myth about paying for college is that it’s simply unaffordable for most families. This just isn’t the case. It’s important to remember that both private and public colleges award considerable amounts of financial aid to lessen the burden on families. Financial aid programs typically take family circumstances into account so that the terms are as favorable as possible. 

This leads to a related myth – that applying for financial aid is difficult. The fact is that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) has been simplified over the years and isn’t much of a challenge to fill out. The online form has clear directions and allows you to review before submitting. As an added bonus, many colleges and high schools provide free workshops to help students and parents navigate the FAFSA.

There’s also a common misunderstanding about the availability of financial aid. Student assistance programs have actually increased significantly, especially at private colleges. Much of this added aid has come in the form of scholarships or grants, neither of which typically need to be repaid. Of course, there are also plenty of federal and private student loans available, most with low interest rates. There’s no reason to be scared away by the published price of attending any college; there are ways to mitigate the cost.

Some families also believe their income is too high for their children to receive financial aid. This isn’t a factor at all for merit-based scholarships, which factor in grades, SAT scores, and service. Schools will often offer more merit money to attract the best students. With regard to high-income families, the most important thing to look at is actually the cost of attendance. A student might show need at one college and not show need at another. It’s always best to apply for financial aid and let things work themselves out from there.

There’s a prevailing belief that only students with very good grades receive financial aid. It’s important to remember that colleges also consider community service, athletics, and participation in the arts as key criteria. Also, eligibility for federal aid is based on financial need rather than academic record.

It’s always best to have the facts on your side. Don’t let these common myths about financial aid influence your college decision.