There are a handful is mistakes repeated by rising students every year – the age-old errors that frustrate industry professionals primarily because they are so avoidable! Here are the 5 financial aid mistakes that we’d love to never, ever see again:
1. Not applying.
This one is just the worst – students who don’t bother to apply. Usually it’s because the student either doesn’t believe she will qualify for aid, or because the financial aid process seems overwhelming. The thing is, the process isn’t nearly as complicated as most students and families believe it is! There are tons of resources out there to help, and kicking things off by completing the FAFSA is much simpler than you probably think.
As far as eligibility goes, our advice is to never, ever assume anything. Financial aid is based on a multitude of factors, only one of which is your family’s income and assets, and that’s why failing to complete the FAFSA based on what you think you’ll receive is at the very top of our list of mistakes.
2. Missing deadlines.
Make a list of your relevant deadlines, then add them to a web-based calendar (Google calendars or your phone’s calendar are both great options). Now, add reminders for each of those dates, figuring in plenty of time to take care of the details. Don’t let money slip through your fingers because you’ve forgotten to submit an application!
3. Not going for local scholarships.
Local scholarships enjoy far less competition than big national “name-brand” scholarships, and even small scholarships can quickly add up to very substantial amounts of aid. There are businesses, organizations, and individuals in your local community who want to help, so let them! Make an account at RIScholarships.org to get started on your RI search.
4. Not comparing loan options.
Not all college loans are created equal. There are huge variations in interest rates, repayment options, and benefits. Line ‘em up and take a good long look at what you’re signing up for before you commit. Download RISLA's College Borrowing Guide to learn how to assess and compare your options.
5. Considering ROI.
Return on Investment is, ultimately, the reason you’re borrowing money to pay for school. Compare the investment – the money you’re borrowing + family contributions – with the return, which is the value of your degree (think projected earnings!). Not all colleges, or degrees, are created equal. And, ultimately, sometimes it makes sense to go to a less expensive school than your dream school if the payoff just isn't there.