We asked the questions you want to know to Financial Aid experts from across the country. Dart Humeston is the Assistant Dean of Enrollment Services and Director of Financial Aid at Barry University in Florida; Franklin E. Loncorich is the Director of Financial Aid at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and Terry Tagaloa, Assistant Director, Office of Student Financial Aid at San Francisco State University. Plus, we discovered some costly misconceptions about financial aid.
Q: When should prospective students and their parents begin thinking about the financial aid process?
Dart Humeston: " At birth. Seriously, in their junior year of high school they should start the discussion about money with their parents and also start investigating scholarships and colleges."
Franklin Loncorich:" I will provide you with a long range and short range answer. Parents should be thinking about financial aid for their son or daughter when they are in elementary school. The short-range answer is late fall of the student's senior year in high school. Federal financial aid forms cannot be submitted to the federal government until after January 1 of each year. Families should complete their federal income tax return prior to attempting to complete the financial aid application forms."
Terry Tagaloa: "They should begin thinking about the process in October the year before they plan on attending. Usually, high schools and/or colleges will have FAFSA workshops to get prepared and what to expect."
Q: When should students start looking for scholarships?
Terry Tagaloa: "They should begin also in October the year
before they plan on attending. Usually, scholarships have deadlines in early spring of the year they plan on attending."
Dart Humeston: "Junior year of high school they can start the process, but it should be in full swing about eight or nine months prior to the time they will start college."
Franklin E. Loncorich: "Students should start looking for scholarships in their junior year in high school. Many scholarships have early deadline dates."
Q: What can students do to maximize their chances of getting scholarships and grants?
Dart Humeston: "In high school, do your homework! A high school GPA and community service is often looked at by colleges more favorably than SAT or ACT scores. And then apply for financial aid early."
Terry Tagaloa: "To maximize scholarships, apply for many. In the student's essay make it interesting, precise and not too long. Usually 1 � pages in length. I have evaluated many scholarship applications and I usually want to hear a little bit about their past, current and future goals. Evenly distribute the three areas on the essay."
Franklin E. Loncorich: "Enhancing a student's ability to receive scholarships is a process that really begins when the student enters high school. The overwhelming majority of scholarship awards are based on the student's academic record and class standing. Student's who enroll in college prep classes and student's who have outstanding academic records along with extra curricular and community services activities have the best chance of obtaining scholarship funds."
"Grant assistance is generally made available to students who
are from lower income families. Students need to make themselves aware of the grant assistance available to them at the particular higher institution they choose to attend and submit their application prior to the established deadline date to maximize their ability to obtain limited funds."
Q: What should students be aware of to avoid scholarship scams?
Franklin E. Lonchorich: "The basic rule to avoid scholarship scams is to know that there is an abundance of scholarship information available to student and parents free of charge. High school counselors should be able to provide students with information about local scholarships as well as scholarships on a national basis. The student should also contact the college or university they plan to attend to obtain information about scholarships made available by the respective institution. In addition, significant information is available on the Internet; a good source is fastweb.com"
Terry Tagaloa: "To apply for Financial Aid or Scholarships should always be free. If there is a fee do not pay or apply."
Dart Humeston: " If anyone is asking you for money to find scholarships, walk away. There are numerous websites that offer excellent databases totally free."
For more information go to the Federal Trade Commission web site http://www.ftc.gov and click on consumer protection it will bring you to a scholarship and employment link with tips on how to avoid scholarship scams. Or call (toll-free) 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Q: What is the most important thing that students and/or their parents should know about the financial aid process?