If your goal this year was to save money on your education, then City Colleges Student Financial Aid Director Richard Hayes is the person you want to talk to. With February being Financial Aid Awareness Month, we asked Director Hayes ten frequently asked questions about financial aid and the infamous FAFSA – the form you need to fill out to apply for financial aid. Whether you’ve heard of the acronym before or not, read on below to learn more about how you can save money when it comes to paying for college.
1. First, what is the FAFSA?
Richard Hayes (RH): FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s the form that college students must fill out to get any type of financial aid assistance from the federal government, such as grants, loans, work study, and scholarships.
2. Who should fill it out?
RH: Even if you believe that you or your family won’t qualify, all students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, regardless of income, should fill out the FAFSA in order to determine their eligibility for financial aid.
3. When should I fill out the FAFSA, and how often do I need to fill it out?
RH: The FAFSA opens every year in October, and students typically fill out the form once a year unless there is a change in the information reported on the application. We suggest filling it out right away to maximize your ability to receive financial aid.
4. What if I’m not eligible to fill out a FAFSA? Are there other funding options for college?
RH: Yes – students who are undocumented or transgender can complete an Illinois Alternative Application under the Rise Act. Additionally, here at City Colleges, students can apply for scholarships through the CCC Foundation. Check them out here!
5. If I fill out the FAFSA, do I still need to apply for other scholarships? Am I still eligible for other scholarships?
RH: We recommend that students apply for all applicable resources. The more funding you apply for, the more opportunities you have to get help paying for college.
6. What is one thing you wish every student knew about financial aid?
RH: It’s important to complete the application as early and as accurately as possible. Erroneous or incomplete information leads to verification, which can hold up the awarding process. Don’t just guess – use your resources at the Financial Aid Office and ask questions to help locate the information you need!
7. What is a common misconception you hear from students about financial aid?
RH: Students often think that they – or their parents – make too much money, so they refuse to apply for financial aid when they are actually in-need. The truth is that the FAFSA considers many variables in determining what a student is eligible for. There are several options and financial resources to help students pay for their education, but to see those options, students must first complete the FAFSA.
8. What’s the most common question you get from CCC students about the FAFSA?
RH: How much money am I getting? The answer can vary greatly, as the FAFSA looks at multiple databases to determine how much financial aid a student is eligible for. To better understand the process, students should speak with the Financial Aid Office at their college or the college they plan to attend.
9. Where should City Colleges students go for financial aid help? What about prospective students?
RH: Each of our seven colleges has a Financial Aid Office, where both current and future students can get personalized help from a financial aid professional. During the pandemic, those same services are being offered online and through Zoom via Virtual Student Services. Students can visit www.ccc.edu/VSS to get directed to the right office.
10. Is there anything else students should know?
RH: Throughout the month of February – recognized as Financial Aid Awareness Month – all seven of our colleges are offering virtual events, workshops, and more to help both current and future CCC students understand their options when it comes to financial aid. Students can even participate in a game of Financial Aid Family Feud! Click here to view the calendar and find an event that suits your needs.