Your student applied for financial aid and received their financial aid award letter detailing how much aid they’re getting to help cover school expenses. Now how do they actually get that money so they can start paying their tuition and fees?
The first thing your student will want to do is accept (or in some cases reject) some or all of their aid package. This is usually done in their student portal on their college’s website. Why would your student reject financial aid? For example, they might have received enough funds in grants and scholarships to cover their college expenses, so they won’t need that loan they have been awarded or applied for, and can click “decline.”
Once your student accepts any or all of their grants, scholarships or loans, the funds will be automatically applied to their tuition, college fees and any other charges on their account. Your student gets any leftover funds there may be — we recommend they set up direct deposit so the cash goes straight into their account. If your student’s financial aid does not cover all of their expenses, they (or you, if you’re helping them out) are responsible for paying the difference.
Loan entrance counseling
If your student is accepting a loan, they first have to go through entrance counseling if they are a first-time borrower. This is to help them understand all their responsibilities in paying back the loan. They’ll also have to sign a Master Promissory Note, which is a legal agreement that they will pay the money back. Loans can make sense for some students, but it is very important that they understand they are responsible for repaying the money, even if they don't finish their degree program for any reason.
Search for work-study opportunities
Your student may also be eligible to participate in Federal Work-Study to help pay for college. This is where they work a job and earn money to go toward school. Your student should connect with their college’s financial aid office to explore opportunities if they are eligible for work-study.
One final note: Your student likely submitted a FAFSA as part of their financial aid search process (if they didn’t, encourage them to do so, stat!). Make sure they understand that the FAFSA isn’t a one-and-done deal — they have to complete it every year if they want to continue receiving federal funds for school.
If your student has any questions regarding the disbursement of their financial aid money, they should connect with their college’s financial aid office. Here’s hoping your student gets lots of aid to help pay for college.