SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

Piecing together the financial aid puzzle

Financial aid puzzle

The decision to go back to school is a big one. On top of deciding where to go, which program to study and what courses to take, you have to determine how you’ll finance your education. While a variety of options are available – scholarships, grants, loans and more – it’s often hard to know where to begin.

Figuring out how the different aspects of financial aid fit together and in what order may seem like piecing together a puzzle without a clear view of the finished product. It can be a confusing and frustrating process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re an incoming student looking to begin the financial aid application process, take a deep breath and keep reading because we’re here to help.

Imagine the finished picture

Education is an investment in yourself and your future. Before you determine how you’re going to finance your investment, make sure you clearly understand the costs from the beginning. The tuition rates webpage has information on tuition costs for each program. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact an enrollment advisor.

Construct the frame

If the financial aid process is a puzzle, then the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the frame. Based on your application, you’ll be able to find out what types of federal financial aid you’re eligible for – such as grants, student loans and work study – and how much.

We’d like to note three important things about completing your FAFSA application:

  1. You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.

    Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be enrolled or even admitted to complete the FAFSA. In fact, we recommend that you complete the application as soon as you’ve made the decision to go back to school, that way you’ll know sooner how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive.

  2. The 2017-2018 application is available October 1, 2016.

    In previous years, the FAFSA wasn’t available until January 1. This year, it’s available October 1, which gives you more time to work ahead. So if you know you’d like to go back to school sometime in the 2017-2018 academic year, you can mark the FAFSA off of your to-do list as soon as this fall.

  3. You can autofill information from your tax return into the FAFSA to make filing faster and easier.

    Since the FAFSA requests information from your previous tax return, the application has received a reputation for being a time consuming and arduous process. However, starting with the 2017-2018 application, much of your financial data can be automatically imported from the IRS directly into the FAFSA. Less time and fewer headaches – a true win-win situation.

Fill in the sides

Once you complete the FAFSA, your information will be processed and you should receive a Student Aid Report via email within 48 hours. If everything was processed successfully, the schools you noted on your application will receive your FAFSA data too. After you’ve been admitted and the office of financial aid has reviewed all of your information, we will calculate your eligibility for federal student aid and notify you through your CityU email.

Once you know if you’re eligible for grants, work study and/or loans, take time to review the information and weigh your options. Since you already know your projected costs, you’ll be able to determine how close you are to meeting your financial needs. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact a CityU financial aid counselor.

Complete the center

Scholarships are another type of financial aid that can fill some gaps in your puzzle. While it can be time consuming to research and apply for multiple scholarships, you may find the results to be well worth the effort.

Some scholarships are based on financial need, others are based on merit and many are based on both. The eligibility requirements for scholarships are unique and are determined by the person or organization awarding the scholarship.

CityU offers several different scholarships. To explore the scholarships we offer, please visit our scholarships webpage.

To apply for private scholarships, visit websites such as Fastweb, which includes a database of more than 500,000 scholarships. Most reputable scholarship providers do not charge applicants fees to apply, so beware of any providers that do ask you for money.

Phone a friend

If at any point during your puzzling process you get stuck or would like some advice, please reach out to a CityU financial aid counselor by email or phone at 206-239-4540; they are ready and willing to help.

To learn more about financial aid, including to view a step-by-step process for completing the FAFSA, visit the City University of Seattle financial aid webpage.


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