Apply early for financial aid

Tom Haverkamp, senior in chemical engineering, recieves help from Katie Mott in the financial aid office on Jan. 16.

Jared Raney

Financial aid is a cause of stress for college students everywhere, but the process that nearly every student goes through does not necessarily need to be feared.

There are ways to make the process go more smoothly. Iowa State’s Financial Aid Office attempts to provide students with the services to get financial aid in the easiest way possible.

Roberta Johnson, the director of financial aid, said that the most important thing to consider when applying for financial aid is timing.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the major decider of financial aid, and according to Johnson, its best to apply as soon as possible.

“Now is the critical time to apply,” Roberta said. With the recent fiscal cliff issues, Johnson said the tax implications cause problems for FAFSA applicants.

The mantra she gives to students is “don’t wait, estimate.” According to her it is better just to get the application processed as quickly as possible, and students can always go back and change their information later.

The cut-off for most financial aid is March 1; that includes work-study, as well as most grants and scholarships.

There are four kinds of financial aid: Scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans. Of all the financial aid available to students, only two are offered all year round. Varying types of student loans are available year-round, as well as the Pell Grant.

The Pell Grant is a grant reserved for the neediest students, Roberta said, only those whose expected family contribution is $5,200 or less.

The financial aid system works by the student filling out a FAFSA application. Then the U.S. Department of Education decides “expected family contribution” based on that information. 

The expected family contribution takes into account everything that could influence the amount of money a family can contribute, from age of parents to the number of people in the family.

That is then sent to the Financial Aid Office, where they assign scholarships, grants, work-study and loans based on need.

Danny Johnson, the associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Business, said, “All of our scholarships go through the same application process.”

The students’ information is filtered by the same process and must meet certain criteria before even being considered for certain scholarships.

“Essays come into play when multiple students meet criteria,” Danny said.

Roberta said the most valuable thing you can do when applying is to make yourself stand out.