Last episode started with the mindset some first-time college students attending community colleges tend to have when asked of their goals on campus, and that mindset is to get some hours to transfer to a 4-year institution. It ended with the doom and gloom of the financial aid experience, an experience that can present many challenges but, when done in a timely fashion with consistency and attention to detail, do not have to consist of doom and gloom.
If the top statement of first-time college students has to do with students proclaiming their intention to get hours to transfer, the one right after that usually consists of “Financial Aid trippin’,” or “Man, I don’t know what’s up with my financial aid,” or “I called them and they won’t answer the phone,” or other statements that usually end up with students and parents fed up. It doesn’t help that the conclusion of these tirades end in laughter and it’s usually not the students and families laughing. It’s never laughter to make people feel silly, but more along the lines of understanding that the financial aid process can be the most stressful aspect for first-time college students and attention to detail is the key to having an enjoyable experience.
The process of financial aid can sometimes be a microcosm of the experiences first-time college students and their families encounter in general: some just don’t know what the hell to do, and that’s okay, because it’s understandable that first-timers don’t know what the hell to do. It can often be the biggest thorn in the ass for all parties involved. With that said and understood, everyone has to work together. 61 percent of community college students work full-time with the percentage increasing to 75 percent of community college students who have part-time jobs (1). The opportunities to receive federal aid are available and can assist in helping students balance out some of the costs associated with earning an education. Even with the aid available, a sizable percentage of students do not apply for federal aid. Sure, some students thought about it, but since they didn’t know where to go, or the steps to apply, or were intimidated by the process (2), it can be understandable to conclude that students and their families wouldn’t understand the urgency in filling out a freaking FAFSA, or what is formally known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This process is where communication truly becomes paramount with patience having to come from both sides, families and the schools. If not, the process goes to hell and the main one being affected is the student who needs their money to help fund their education.
A mistake students and families make is applying for a FAFSA late (1). While it’s understandable when students don’t know where, or if, they’re attending college, once the decision is made, then students and families must come to campus and get help working on a FAFSA. Once the FAFSA is filled out, the work is far from done. While it seems like phones are a person’s best friend, or their most convenient friend, a phone isn’t worth a damn when it comes to financial aid. The best way to get things done, especially in the summertime prior to the start of the fall semester, is to do things in person. Also, it helps to have working internet at the house, or have access to internet somewhere. That way, students and families can track the progress of their FAFSA online, especially because financial aid isn’t about to stop what they’re doing to call and talk on the phone. It aint happening.
Part 2 of financial aid will continue on Episode 4.