Of all the parts of the college admission process, completing the financial aid portion was and still is my least favorite part of the admission process. While the FAFSA and CSS profile sound daunting with all of the terminology it uses and personal financial questions, the process isn’t that challenging as it is painstakingly tedious. The way I went about tackling the FAFSA when I was in high school was the same way I went about with writing supplements by prioritizing the most important things I needed to do first and keeping track of important deadlines so I wouldn’t get penalized for a late submission. As the first in my immediate family to apply to college, I couldn’t rely on my parents to help me understand the process as those who’ve parents went through the application process and being that my father was busy with work, taking care of bills, and other concerns I was and still am the person responsible for filling out my financial aid forms. Being that my father isn’t as technologically savvy as someone born with a computer like myself, he relies on me to handle the FAFSA and just gives me the necessary information needed to complete it. Whenever I didn’t understand a term or struggled with a question I went to my college counselor to decipher what it meant and just worked on application at home or in my college counseling period where we focused on college related material.
Now that I’m in college, the financial aid process is still just as annoying and burdensome to complete but I only have to worry about filling out forms for one school versus going through additional paperwork for other schools and I’m no longer required to complete the CSS Profile which was even more in depth and longer than the FAFSA. Unlike my college counselor who was always available and willing to help me through the process of completing the FAFSA and other financial aid forms, the financial aid office on campus doesn’t seem as willing to go out of their way to help students with their application once they’ve gotten into school. Every time I’ve been in my financial aid office on campus last year I either had to argue about why there was an increase in my tuition payment plan over a problem on their side with a third party company or once about a form I already gave in that they couldn’t find in their office.
Though I don’t seek much assistance from my financial aid counselor, it’s gotten easier to understand certain questions because of the familiarity of filling out the same question before. The only challenge once you’re in college versus being in high school is to set aside time to work on the application either in the morning on weekends or while you’re on break so you can stay on top of everything while focusing on academics and social involvements. It may not be the most enjoyable part of the process, but trust me when I say it becomes more manageable with age.