Students have to face many financial issues at the time of college admissions. The costs for test preparation services, standardized testing, college visits, and applications add up to major educational expenses. The major educational expenses can be college tuition, textbooks, room and board fees. Managing money for such expenses can be challenging for students, and they want help in solving such financial issues. Financial aid programs help students in such situations and help them in continuing their studies.
As the financial aid process has increased in complexity, the number of individuals offering financial aid services has increased significantly. Such individuals offering financial aid to students include financial aid consultants and scholarship search companies. As financial aid services help students to continue their studies, some families sing praises of certain consultants and companies. However, some individuals charge extra fees and provide just a little or already available information. While choosing a financial aid consultant, you need to avoid being taken advantage of. To be sure that you understand services clearly, you have to choose a financial aid consultant wisely.
Financial Aid Consultants
The financial aid consultants are not like financial aid administrators. They charge a fee for a variety of services. Choosing the financial aid consultant may seem overwhelming to you. But by asking questions from consultants, you can be clear on your next steps. Even if there are questions in your mind after the consultation, you can ask them on call or by email. You need to stay positive throughout the financial aid process. Keep in mind that they always want to help you. Sometimes the financial aid consultants are limited by state and federal rules and regulations. The process may take several days or weeks, so be patient. If there’s a way to speed up the process, the consultant will let you know. The services of financial aid consultants include:
- Creating the financial aid forms including Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Estimating the resources of students;
- Estimation of expected family contribution (EFC) of students applying for financial aid;
- Assessing the financial needs and educational expenses of students
- Describing the types of programs available at federal, state, local, institutional, and private aid levels.
Tips To Choose the Right Financial Aid Consultant
You have to remember these things before paying financial aid consultants for service:
- The financial aid administrators perform similar services without any cost.
- Get assistance from the financial aid office by contacting them at local or university, or reference librarians at public library offices. Even if you want to attend another institution, the staff of every financial aid office and public librarian can provide the same assistance as consultants. You can also get information from the college website, publications, and catalogs as they are good sources of information.
- Students can get complete student financial assistance information for free by searching them on the internet. Searching on the internet is an excellent way to get comprehensive information. The US department of education provides free aid information on the website.
- At the US department of education FAFSA website, you can complete the FAFSA free of cost. The website is:
- In case if you or your family has paid a fee to complete or help in FAFSA to a consultant.
- Ask your consultant to sign the FAFSA as a preparer.
- After getting the FAFSA signed by the preparer, review and sign it, mail it to yourself before the required deadline.
- Confirm that the consultant fee is refundable in case if he/she completes the FAFSA incorrectly.
- As you will be responsible for the information provided on FAFSA, so never sign a blank form.
- Keep the copies of FAFSA, applications, and forms with your important documents. Even if someone has assisted you in the preparation of these documents, you should keep their copies.
- Some consultants also fix fees based on the percentage of aid received from you. Never agree with this.
- Choosing a financial aid consultant is not a guarantee that you’ll surely get financial aid. So, if you can handle the process, do it by yourself.
- While selecting a financial aid consultant, request a list of references, and contact them before deciding.
- Sometimes consultants also charge for a list of scholarships and grants, taking them directly from school websites or publications. You can get this information free of charge.
- Some scholarships and grants are awarded by schools and organizations just once. Or sometimes they may or may not award again next year.
- Look for the financial aid consultant or scholarship-search organization legitimacy on the websites on:
- U.S. Department of Education’s “Avoiding Scams”
- Federal Trade Commission
- Better Business Bureau
Avoid these things while dealing with your financial aid consultant.
The financial aid consultants are there to help you in making the process easier for you. Sometimes, your consultant can be rude or seem rushed. But you don’t have to be aggressive. Be patient and try to handle things politely. Here are some things to avoid while choosing a financial aid consultant
- The situation for every case and the student is different. Don’t try to compare your award with others, or you may get confused or disheartened. If you have any questions, you can freely ask your consultant.
- Consumer debt will not be taken into account at the time of the financial aid process. Don’t discuss them with your consultant.
- Don’t give up; you can apply again in the next year.
- Even if students are offering you loans, don’t take them. You will have to repay loans, usually with interest. Only take loans in absolute needs.
- Don’t be ashamed to discuss your personal finances with your financial aid consultant. These finances can be anything that may affect your ability to pay tuition fees, including bankruptcy, child support, and medical expenses.
While meeting with your financial aid consultants, keep these tips in mind. After choosing the right financial aid consultant, you can be sure that they will help you in the best possible way.