College Need-Based Financial Assistance & Aid: Tips from a Campus Expert

College Need-Based Financial Assistance & Aid: Tips from a Campus Expert
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education to set students up for success no matter what their next step is. Part of this mission involves offering targeted college financial assistance to ensure affordability for all students. To us, maximizing access means recognizing the crucial role financial aid plays in making education accessible. Read on to learn more about key financial aid topics.

Understanding different types of financial aid and the processes required to use those resources can be difficult for anyone, especially if you’re a freshly graduated high school student who may be applying to college for the first time. To make this easier, our team provides essential financial aid tips to navigate this complex landscape.

We chatted with Campus’s lead financial aid specialist, Stephanie Zeppenfelt, in a virtual interview to dive into the relationship between college students, college financial aid offices, and financial aid as a program.

Defining Financial Aid

“I always like to break financial aid down in an easy-to-understand way. A lot of times, students don’t understand that they’re applying for funds within a federal program that the school participates in,” Stephanie told Campus.

Stephanie describes financial aid as an umbrella term that takes on numerous, distinct forms.

“Students think financial aid is just the money that they don’t have to pay back, but loans fall under the term as well,” Stephanie explained. It's crucial to understand the nuances of need-based financial aid versus merit-based options to fully optimize your financial resources. “Financial aid is loans, grants, scholarships, federal work-study – those are all different types of financial aid that fall under that umbrella…So if you ask the financial aid office if you’re going to be eligible for financial aid, they may say yes, but it might be loans that they’re referring to, not just grants.”

Stephanie often stresses the importance of asking specific questions about need-based financial aid to understand what part of your package could be free aid. Students can receive financial aid so long as the school is participating in the federal program and is following the rules set by the government.

“We are here to assist you in navigating the process, jumping through hoops, and doing what you have to do to receive the federal funds,” Stephanie explained. This includes detailed advice on college financial assistance to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for various programs.

Because it is a program, there are all sorts of requirements that students must fulfill, and the requirements can even vary from school to school, which is why connecting with your financial aid office is a must if you want to put your best foot forward towards receiving any aid.

Stephanie Quote: "If you ask the financial aid office if you’re going to be eligible for financial aid, they may say yes, but it might be loans that they’re referring to, not just grants.
Stephanie on student loans as a form of financial aid.

“There’s no harm in reaching out to the financial aid office to get your checklist of what you need to do,” Stephanie suggested. Submitting the FAFSA every year is always a great place to start.

Emphasis on start.

A short video that discusses the FAFSA, who is eligible, how it can help you pay for college, and how to fill it out

“I always tell students that the FAFSA is the starting point, not the ending point,” Stephanie said. “Once you’re admitted to an institution, you can start working with that financial aid office and they will let you know what they need from you when it’s available, how to access it, and how to submit requests.”

Useful financial aid tips like regularly updating your financial information can significantly influence the aid you receive. And by the time you receive your financial aid offer letter, you should definitely contact your financial aid office for clarification on what everything means.

If there’s a period where your FAFSA information, and therefore your final, resulting financial aid package, is not reflective of your current financial situation, Stephanie shared that her office can help with getting that addressed as well. This may be, for example, if a student or their parent becomes unemployed, or if a family separation results in a change in addresses and household incomes.

“You definitely want to reach out to your school’s financial aid office, explain the situation, and inquire how to submit an appeal for reconsideration!”

This proactive approach is vital, especially when seeking adjustments based on need-based financial aid requirements.

Finally, even when it comes to outside scholarships, which we always encourage students to be on the lookout for in addition to federal aid, Stephanie suggests getting an expert second opinion.

“If you ever find a scholarship you’re interested in applying for, I’d recommend contacting the financial aid office if you’re unsure if it’s a legit opportunity. They can help you decipher that.”

They can also offer financial aid tips to help you identify and apply for legitimate scholarship opportunities effectively.

What’s a Big Misconception About Financial Aid Offices?

“I would say a big misconception from students about us is that the financial aid office doesn’t want to help them get financial aid,” Stephanie answered. It’s simply because of how complex the process can be that it may appear that way.

“We are there to help you, but we also have to make sure that we’re following the rules of the program,” she explained. “Otherwise, that puts the whole institution – all students receiving financial aid – at risk if we’re not following the rules set by the government. “

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to financial aid distribution, and while there are overarching federal regulations, there are also plenty of colleges and universities that have their own unique policies and procedures. And for that, Stephanie leaves us with one piece of advice: “Don’t be a stranger!”

When it comes to any kind of financial aid, financial aid office staff really are here to help you.

Questions about Financial Aid?

If you want to learn more about financial aid as it relates to Campus and our online associate in business program, Stephanie and the financial aid office team are available to chat! Give admissions a call at (888) 675-2460, or send an email to and we’ll be happy to help!

And if you’d like to give yourself a head start, read up on opportunities available to Campus students on our Tuition page.

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