Feeling overwhelmed or even frightened by the financial aid process? Guess what? You are not alone. Many of us find it difficult to follow all of the deadlines and fill out complicated financial aid forms. But no one has ever said that finding money for college is an easy task. The good news is that Rowan’s Financial Aid Office works hard every day to guide you and help you reduce any financial aid roadblocks.
And no one knows how to overcome financial aid obstacles better than Pamela Gordy, Director of Financial Aid Office. Pamela has been working in the Financial Aid department for six years and often facilitates open houses, outreach events, receptions and high school functions, as well as works one-on-one with students. Despite a busy schedule, Pamela gladly shared with us what the most common financial aid mistakes are and how to overcome them.
For those of you who are hearing the word FAFSA for the first time, it is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The key word here is FREE. Many parents and students get caught up in websites that will cost them $89 to apply for financial aid. Ouch! That’s pricey for a free application. Plus, these websites will promise you an extreme amount of money that in reality doesn’t even exist. Our first advice is to avoid FAFSA preparers at all costs.
Complete your FAFSA, ASAP
If you know for sure that you are going to attend Rowan next year, then you need to complete FAFSA now. The earlier you apply, the earlier the financial aid team can receive and process your information. That way, you can get an award package for FALL 2017 semester as early as in March, instead of June. The bills are due in August. However, since financial aid will have your award all situated and ready in spring, you would have more time to fill gaps and apply for additional loans, such Parent PLUS or private loans.
First-Generation Students and their Parents are Unfamiliar with Financial Aid
In 2015, Rowan Financial Aid department started “Financial Aid Boot Camp” to prepare high school students and their parents for the financial aid process. Over the breakfast and later lunch, attendees of the workshop learned stages of financial aid process and basic terminology. In addition, the financial aid team helped attendees to evaluate and compare award packages to define which institution fits them best. The last Boot Camp workshop was held on March 5, 2016. To find out when the next one is going to be follow Rowan Financial Aid on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PELL + TAG
Every year, millions of students across the country receive the Federal Government’s PELL grants. Whereas, New Jersey residents are also eligible for TAG grants issued by the State. “Those are the meat awards,” says Pamela. The two awards are the majority of financial aid funds and does not have to be repaid. Every academic year, Financial Aid urges students to complete their FAFSA by the state FAFSA filing deadline of April 15, 2017 and pay close attention to all correspondence from the state (HESAA), which will be either an eligibility notice or a request for additional information. Financial Aid’s job is to serve our students with exceptional customer service, determine our students’ financial aid eligibility and award the financial aid so that families can determine how much they are expected to pay.
Submit Additional Requirements to the State of New Jersey
The financial aid department handles a large amount of incomplete records from students that never answered their additional questions to be eligible for the State grant. A student can receive up to $8,000 for TAG grant. That is why, this year financial aid will reach out to every student who has an incomplete State financial aid application. So, check your email for a possible notification from a financial aid team member and fill out State required information to obtain the biggest award.
Federal Work Study
Students declare whether they want federal work study by completing a question on the FAFSA. However, Rowan students need to proactively visit Financial Aid to declare that they are, indeed, still interested once they become students. Each September financial aid collaborates with the Career Management Center to host a job fair with various on-campus and off-campus employers searching for student workers. During the event financial aid awards federal work study to all interested and qualified students, especially first-time students, and allows them to go straight to the interview.
Federal work study is available, but on limited basis. If you do not qualify for it, you are still eligible for institutional work study. Pamela stresses the importance of students using the federal work study awards. The goal is to employ as many students as Rowan can, so students can gain career experience. For a list of current job openings go to PROFS JOBS or click here.
Where to Get Free Help:
November 1, 2016 was the first day for Financial Aid Office to implement an ‘Online Chat’ during the busiest phone high volume time. Financial Aid will have someone on the phones and live as well to answer all of your questions whether you are a prospective/current student or a parent.
If you are a current student looking for help, FINAID team has conducted several presentations, workshops and even live webinars for you, such as:
- Live Boot Camp webinars, ins and outs of financial aid process and a live Q&A session.
- “Money Matters” presentations at the open houses that talk about loans in depth.
- Financial Literacy events.
- “Financial Aid Webinar Time,” videos about different types of loans, grants and work study, including a live Q&A session.
- “Achieving a dream” program for Achieving The Dream Scholarship students.
In the near future, Financial Aid wants to implement ‘lunch time break’ programs in the Student Center, where students would get a free bag of lunch and talk with team members about financial literacy. Again, to find more information about the events follow Financial Aid on social media.
How did you overcome your financial aid obstacles?
By: Natalia Panfilova