Common Misconceptions about Financial Aid – General

Post By: COYD Staff

financial aid information“Information is gold.” The amount of money you receive as financial aid depends on how much you know about the financial aid process. From filling out the FAFSA to applying to scholarships, there are many parts of the financial aid process that aren’t necessarily common sense, but they are easy and free to learn on the internet or from the financial aid offices themselves. Today, we are going to start with 5 general misconceptions about financial aid that many students and parents have that will prohibit them from getting the most financial aid:

1. I can’t go to a top 10 university because I can’t afford it.

Other iterations are “Only rich people can afford to go to XYZ University.” This misconception is one of my biggest pet peeves. Whenever I hear this out of a student’s mouth, I’m furious. I don’t know if they really believe this or they are just making excuses. Whatever it is, it’s a misconception, one that many people seem to have and many TV shows seem to write into their dialogue or plots.

Here are a few facts that make this statement completely false:
– From Harvard College financial aid office: “Our new financial aid policy has dramatically reduced the amount families with incomes below $180,000 are expected to pay, and parents of families with incomes below $60,000 are not expected to contribute at all to college costs.”
– Stanford University has a similar policy. “For parents with total annual income below $60,000 and typical assets for this income range, Stanford will not expect a parent contribution toward educational costs.”
– Many other colleges have similar programs.

2. Only low-income students are eligible for financial aid.

It is a common misconception that middle class families are ineligible for financial aid. First of all, what is the definition of middle class? I would suggest that middle class differs from city to city. Some people might think $40,000 per year constitutes middle class. Others think $90,000 per year means middle class. Second, there are several types of financial aid out there that don’t take into consideration income. In fact, there are specific grants for people who want to pursue a teaching career. These grants have nothing to do with a student’s financial situation. Until you fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile, don’t jump to the conclusion that the middle class doesn’t qualify for financial aid.

3. Public schools are always cheaper than private schools.

If you are a resident of a certain state, then the public school associated with that state might have a low tuition; however, if you are a resident of one state and are admitted to a public school in another state, the tuition costs will be comparable to a private school.

In addition to that, even if a certain private school might have higher tuition, a student might qualify for more aid at the private school than at the public school. Bottom line, don’t make general statements about certain schools being cheaper than other schools until you get your financial aid package. You might be pleasantly surprised.

4. Financial aid only includes loans so I might as well not even apply.

Financial aid packages consist of loans, work-study programs and grants. Work-study programs provide part-time employment to help with college expenses. Grants are funds that do not need to be paid back.

5. If I apply for a merit-based aid, I can’t apply for need-based aid as well.

I can’t even explain this misconception because it is illogical and false. I don’t even know how this misconception came to be so common. There are all kinds of scholarships out there that are merit-based, need-based and ethnically-based. Applying to one kind doesn’t preclude you from applying to another.

Remember, when there’s a will, there is always a way. The majority of American students are on some kind of financial aid, so you are not alone. It all starts with understanding the financial aid process and researching all of your options. Next post, we will discuss the common misconceptions about financial aid forms.


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