From the Admissions Desk: What do I need to know about Financial Aid?

This is Part 3 of a 4-part blog series on financing your education.

In the first two parts of this blog series on financial aid, we addressed two big questions prospective students grapple with as they plan their postsecondary education (Should I apply and how do I apply for financial aid?). Here, we are going to dive into the most frequently asked questions we hear at IYRS School of Technology & Trades. Because we hear so many questions, we’ve whittled this blog down to the answers that have the biggest impact on your decision to enroll. But take note, these questions and answers explicitly focus on the trade school student and their experience. 

1.   Who reviews my application(s) for financial aid and scholarships

This will vary by school, but any school accepting federal financial aid must organize their awarding process in line with federal guidance. Therefore, a school will have trained professionals reviewing your application against approved criteria. And, the professionals who award financial aid are not the same as those instructing you in class or interviewing you for admissions to the school. For instance, the IYRS Student Services Team is solely responsible for facilitating the financial aid process. 


2.  How and when will I be notified of my financial aid award?

This will also vary by school. First and foremost, be sure you have submitted to the school all required documents to qualify for a complete financial aid award. Be proactive and confirm this with the school. While many schools have fixed due dates and award dates, other schools like IYRS have rolling processes. Be sure you know the timelines and, if you are applying through a rolling process, ask when a student can expect to receive their award. At IYRS, we aim to provide students with a preliminary award within six weeks of completed documentation or less.  


3.  How and when do I receive the funding I’ve earned?

Every school and financial aid awarding institution should have a clear disbursement and refund policy that is provided before you accept the funds. In most cases, funds will be disbursed directly to the school you are attending, not directly to you. And, in nearly all cases, financial aid resources - from loans to scholarships - are explicit in defining how they can be used. When the amount awarded exceeds tuition, fees and other approved costs a refund may be issued to the student. 


4.  How do I build a budget for school?

A budget to attend part-time or full-time school will include expenses in preparation to attend as well as expenses while attending and, when you accept student loans, after attending. Most schools will provide an outline required resources in advance so that students can prepare. Budgeting for expenses like books and tools may be a one-time cost but could include recurring subscription fees for software or memberships. Expenses while attending school will include rent, utilities, transportation, communication, food, and select amenities to name a few examples. Consider holiday travel in transportation budgeting and, if possible, cushion your budget for emergencies like added travel or vehicle repairs. Remember too, that if you have accepted student loans, once you finish school and the grace period concludes you will be responsible for repayment. Review your student loan repayment plan when building your budget and keep in mind that you can request a lower loan amount to manage your budget goals.


5.  How do I ensure I can pay back my student loans?

Unlike scholarships and grants which do not require repayment (except in cases when a student withdraws), loans are the only form of financial aid that a student repays. Begin by making a repayment plan before you accept loans. Review the master promissory note to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your loan. And, of course, with most things being digital these days, find and save your student loan servicer contact information, including the website, login credentials, and service team email address. From there, research your repayment plan options. Confirm the length of any grace periods as well as the duration and frequency of the repayment plan you select. Set payment date reminders in your calendar and optimize automatic payments, when possible, to organize loan payments within your monthly budget plan. Since you saved your student loan servicer contact information, regularly check your account and new communications from the servicer in your inbox. 


6.  What do I need to know about my loan payments and default

Staying current on student loan payments is important to avoid defaulting. Default status will depend on the type of student loan and student loan servicer, but if you miss a payment or are having trouble making a payment there are options to avoid default, like deferment, forbearance, or switching repayment plans. Before accepting a student loan be sure to complete loan counseling and review both the loan terms and master promissory note. Managing your student loan payments is key to maintaining your credit rating and ensuring competitive interest rates on future loans.