By Abby Wargo
Student Life Editor
As students begin another semester at Washington College, financial aid concerns may arise. Students receiving aid and scholarships their first year of college occasionally witness fluctuation each following semester, according to the Associate Director of the Financial Aid Office Cailean Leith.
Leith said there are two different types of aid; merit based scholarships, which are determined by GPA, and federal and state based aid, which are calculated based on a student’s FAFSA form. FAFSA aid includes student loans, federal work-study, and institutional, federal, and state grants.
In order to keep a merit-based scholarship, a student must maintain a certain GPA requirement, which is generally a 2.5 or 3.0 minimum. The FAFSA must be resubmitted each year, and depending on the information submitted, aid can fluctuate, Leith said.
“A student and their family have very different years in regards to income or assets or things like if you have a sibling that is in school, and those can really affect what comes out on the FAFSA and what kind of eligibility that you have,” he said.
Aid can be regained if it is lost, but that is not always the case. Other things, such as a student moving off-campus, can affect aid eligibility.
“It is a case by case basis, it really depends on what the initial financial award was, so if you’re looking for one year to the next, moving off-campus can be a part of that equation as far as what’s gained and what’s lost.”
Financial aid awards differ slightly from class to class; freshmen can receive up to $5,500 in federal loans; sophomores, $6,500; and upperclassmen, up to $7,500. These loans can either be subsidized or unsubsidized, which means they differ on when and how the loan interest is paid.
Leith said, “So basically, you could be the son or daughter of Oprah and you could still get a $5,500 loan if you did the FAFSA.”
In rare cases, students may choose to appeal the initial financial aid award given to them by the school. The office of financial aid has a form for students to complete if the student has an appealable reason.
“Typically the most common reasons for appeal would be like if a parent has a job loss, if there are medical bills that a family is dealing with, those kinds of things, then we can take another look at that and see if there can be a change [in the award].”
If a student feels that they have not received enough aid but does not have proper documentation proving extenuating circumstances, then their aid will not be increased.
“We’re going to award you as much as we possibly can based on the eligibility from your FAFSA, so it’s not as if we can change that eligibility,” he said. “If you look at it and say I just can’t afford this anymore, I need more money, it’s hard for us to turn around and say, ‘There’s money over here that we didn’t give you just in case this didn’t happen;’ we’ve awarded you to the fullest extent that we’re able to.”
The FAFSA for the 2018-19 school year will be available beginning Oct. 1, and Leith recommends finishing the FAFSA by March 1 prior to the year you’re applying for. Many grants offered have this deadline, and it is difficult to receive aid after this point.
Another way to receive aid that is not through grants or federal funding is through scholarships.
“Kind of a common misconception is that you can only receive scholarships coming out of high school going into freshman year, but students receive scholarships through all four years and you might get one your senior year, so it’s worth looking at,” he said.
The most important thing to consider when looking over your financial aid award? Ask questions whenever possible.
Leith said, “We know that the financial aid process can be confusing, but we do it every day. If there is something that’s confusing to you or there’s a change in your financial aid, call and talk to your counselor; we’d be happy to explain it to you.”