Century Scholars recipient accepts award with her parents

Financial Aid

5 things you should know about Financial Aid for college tuition

Financial Aid

 
By Jennifer Davis 
 
As Financial Aid Administrators, we are often asked, “What do I need to know?” or “What questions should I be asking?”  The truth is most families are asking all the right questions. Financial Aid can often be intimidating and overwhelming, but these top five things to know can help answer those questions and ease some of those worries. 
 

FAFSA 

 
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to determining your federal and state aid eligibility. You will file it every year, beginning October 1st, and it’s always based off the prior-prior year’s income. While the FAFSA is not required, every aid administrator will highly encourage their students to file it, as it could open them up to other aid opportunities they may not even have realized. And contrary to popular belief, the FAFSA isn’t as hard and scary as some might think. The Department of Education works hard to evaluate the application to eliminate unnecessary questions and confusion. A helpful hint would be to make sure to use the Data Retrieval Tool, which transfers all of your tax information directly from the IRS. This eases the burden of looking up line items on those tax returns and minimizes the possibly of further documentation you may have to provide to your financial aid office later. 
 

Verification 

 
When you file a FAFSA, 30% of students are selected for a process called verification. This is basically an audit of the information you reported on the FAFSA. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong or will not be eligible for aid. The Financial Aid Office will just need to clear you through this process before they can offer any federal or state aid. So, the important thing to remember is to stay on top of any paperwork or required documents your Financial Aid Office may need. Be sure to check those emails!  
 

Financial Aid Package 

 
Your school will send you a comprehensive financial aid package each year. This will include any institutional aid, federal aid, or state aid that your student may qualify for. You will see aid based on your student’s merit, their financial need (if you filed the FAFSA), and other aid such as loans and Federal Work-Study. At Bellarmine, first-year students can expect their comprehensive packages to come in the mail starting in December. The booklet is extremely helpful and outlines all you need to know about your costs and financial aid offer for your student’s first year. Returning student packages come out a little later and will typically receive their aid packages for the following year at the end of the Spring semester. 
 

Scholarships 

 
There are millions of outside scholarship opportunities for students to tap in to. We encourage students to check with any organizations or clubs they are involved in, as well as their employers (both student and parents’). First-year students should check with their high school guidance counselor, as they generally receive a lot of information on the local scholarships in the community. There are also numerous scholarship search engines to apply through. A common one is fastweb.com, which allows students to create a profile about themselves and the search sends scholarships to the student based on that profile. This saves you time shuffling through all these scholarships that you may not qualify for. The most important thing to remember when searching for scholarships is you never want to pay. Bellarmine also has a listing of all outside scholarships that are reported to our office. You can find that listing here- https://www.bellarmine.edu/financial-aid/costsolutions/. Don’t forget to sell yourself on those scholarship applications and keep your grades up to renew any continuing scholarships that might require a certain GPA.  
 

Special Circumstances 

 
We recognize that times can be hard on a lot of families and your current financial picture may not look the same or even close to what it was two years ago. Whether it be loss of income, excessive medical expenses, a divorce or separation, or the death of a parent, the Financial Aid Office is willing and able to help. Financial Aid Administrators have authority to make professional judgments on a case-by-case basis for families who have special circumstances. It’s important to share this information with the Financial Aid Office, so that your FAFSA can be evaluated for potential adjustments based on your special circumstance, that could result in additional aid eligibility. If you are paying private tuition for a younger child in elementary or secondary school, Bellarmine also adjusts FAFSA income to account for this. Please reach out to our office if this relates to your family situation. 
 
Jennifer Davis is the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Bellarmine University. She’s been in the Financial Aid Office since 2007. She graduated from Campbellsville University with a major in Business Administration and minor in Psychology. She earned her Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice from Bellarmine University in May 2021. 

Tags: Financial Aid

About Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.