Campus Financial Aid Expert on the Relationship between Students & Financial Aid
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.
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. “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.”
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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!”
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.”
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 email@example.com 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.