2 Surprising Things That Won’t (Always) Keep You From Getting Financial Aid

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"Time Limit" as seen on a parking meter.

You shouldn’t ignore deadlines, but if you miss one, that doesn’t mean you’ve run out of time.

Financial aid season is upon us—and it can be a lot to keep track of and understand.

To receive financial aid, you have to file your taxes, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), submit other financial aid documents, and potentially, do even more. (Anything else colleges can add to your plate before you even enroll??)

It’s no wonder things fall through the cracks during this process. However, if you miss something important, that doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, here are a couple surprising things you can do and still (usually) receive aid.

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1. Miss Your School’s Filing Deadline

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “deadline,” I think that it’s a hard-and-fast cutoff date. That’s not the case when it comes to all financial aid.

Many schools have “priority filing deadlines,” which range from February 15 to May 1. Hitting this deadline maximizes the amount of aid you may receive. This is because institutional aid, such as institutional need-based grants and Perkins loans, usually fall into a “first-come, first-served” category. So, schools may run out of this aid by their priority deadline—or they may stop offering these funds at that point anyway.

Some states have priority filing deadlines for state grants as well, but others have a “traditional” deadline. Make sure to check the FAFSA to be sure when your state’s deadline is and what kind of deadline it is.

You Can Still Receive Federal Aid

While you may miss out on institutional aid, you can apply for federal financial aid up until almost the last day of classes. Your school would need to certify your aid by the last day of classes, so you’d need to complete the FAFSA a few weeks before the end of the term (don’t wait too long).

If you do this, remember that you have to pay for your tuition, room and board, etc. without aid. If you’re a real procrastinator or you find that you need aid after the start of the term, federal aid will still be an option after the priority filing deadline.

2. Enroll As A Part-Time Student

If you can’t enroll full time because you work or care for your children, for example, you can still receive financial aid. This is known as part-time financial aid.

Some students don’t realize that they only need to be enrolled at least half time to be eligible for Stafford loans, Perkins loans, and PLUS loans. You may also receive Pell grants for attending even less than that. This can make a big difference for the nontraditional student population that may not go to classes Monday through Friday. (OK, lots of traditional students may not go to class on Friday either …)

Check with your school to find out the requirements for full- and part-time enrollment.

Have a question about receiving financial aid? Leave it for Ashley in the comments!

(Photo: rosefirerising)

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