College Financial Aid Disaster Stories from a Former College Admissions Representative

By: Dolores Dell

During my time as a college admissions representative I wore many hats. I was responsible for giving high school classroom information sessions and collecting interest cards, talking to families, setting up tours, filling out enrollment forms…you get the point. But one area that I was not in charge of often became a horror story for some of my students. That area…. financial aid!

Financial aid is used by 65% of all college students and is a big reason why many families can afford a college education. But this help can turn into a nightmare if you don’t know the facts or procrastinate on your responsibilities. Below are two real-life stories of financial aid disasters, in hopes that by reading this you will not make the same mistakes…the names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Sally was a great student. She applied to college in November of her senior year and received almost immediate admittance. After her admittance I sent her to the financial aid office where she began the process. Since her family did not have their tax return forms back from the IRS they decided to do an estimate based on the previous year. This is a common practice. You just have to be sure to supply the financial aid office with the actual numbers when your tax returns become available.

Well time passed quickly and the financial aid officer’s calls went unanswered. Sally and her family waited very long to submit their tax returns and it held up the process. It made the entire process extremely stressful and Sally was almost not able to start school on time. It also put at risk her ability to receive the monies available to her. A lot of tears were shed that could have been avoided if the family had not procrastinated on their responsibilities!

Mark was also a great student. He was extremely personable and was looking forward to going to college. He really wanted to make a difference in the world and felt his college education would be the first step. He was awarded financial aid but it did not cover all of his college costs. His parents did not have money for their son’s education because of a family illness that had devastated much of their savings. So his parents took out a parent loan.

Mark was thrilled with whatever help his parents could offer but he would still need to take a student loan to cover the remainder of the costs. He decided to go with a private loan instead of a federal staffing loan. Many students choose the federal staffing loan because it comes with a lower interest rate price tag; but Mark became enamored by the larger amount available with the private loan, and decided he could use the extra money now despite the higher interest rate. He went against the advice of the financial aid dept., and made the mistake of not considering the big picture. Unfortunately, Mark’s payments became too high and he needed to take a job out of his field of study in order to pay the loan in a timely manner. He is still pursuing a job in his field of study, but now has a lot less time to devote.

These students had their college experience tainted because of their financial aid goofs. Don’t make the same mistakes.

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