Admissions Blog: How to make sure you’re getting all the financial aid you need

Sweet Briar familyFinancial aid comes in many shapes and forms — whether you receive a scholarship, a loan or employment. It can come from several sources: federal, state, foundations, the community, or the College itself. All of them help you meet your college expenses.

I like to describe it this way:

  • Free money: Scholarships and grants. In other words, money that does not need to be paid back.
  • Borrowed money: Loans. That’s money that needs to be paid back.
  • Earned money – A job. So, money you earn through campus employment.

You might have heard before that “billions of free money go unclaimed.” Here’s what do to claim some of that “billion”:

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA). Never pay anyone to complete the FAFSA. Go to fafsa.gov — it’s free!
  2. Make sure you check for deadlines and meet those deadlines. Don’t apply late.
  3. Search for scholarships, using search engines such as chegg.com, collegeboard.org and fastweb.com. Some scholarships may require a short essay.
  4. Check with your guidance counselor — they may know of scholarships through your school and/or community.
  5. Civic organizations and churches also provide scholarships.
  6. Apply early. The sooner you complete the FAFSA, the more aid you could be eligible for!

It also doesn’t hurt to speak with the financial aid office for suggestions. Use us as a resource. At Sweet Briar, we pride ourselves on providing you that one-on-one attention.

Before you get started on your FAFSA, here are some common mistakes you should avoid when completing the FAFSA by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. And here is a FAFSA checklist.

Need help with your college application and financial aid timeline? This is what Sweet Briar’s calendar for financial aid looks like:

August-October

  • Complete your application for admission

October-November

  • Oct. 1 – fafsa.gov opens. Complete your FAFSA!
  • Contact colleges to determine deadlines for financial aid.
  • Check websites of colleges for the net price calculator to help you estimate your costs.
  • Start your outside scholarship search.

November-December

  • Expect your financial aid award letter in the mail.
  • Continue your outside scholarship search.

Wanda SpradleyWanda Spradley is the director of financial aid at Sweet Briar College, where she has been working for more than 14 years. When she isn’t meeting with students or writing award letters, Wanda can be found spending time with her family and scrapbooking. Wanda graduated from Sweet Briar in 2009.

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