For all students entering any university, knowing the ins and outs of financial aid at the institution is extremely important. While there are several reasons why any prospective student should be informed about financial aid, it is an especially relevant topic for the broad demographic of people that make up the student body of California State University, Long Beach a public institution with a high commuter population. Even though the California State University schools are some of the cheapest in the state, financial aid makes it possible for students to attend college who could otherwise not afford to.
While various forms of financial aid are widely available for many students, it is of utmost importance that you are informed when you make these costly financial decisions. Without information and a degree of financial literacy, it is easy to get lured by seductive financial aid packages that sound a lot better than they actually are. Because the decisions you make regarding financial aid now could affect you for years after your college graduation, here is a list of five things to look for when applying for financial aid/scholarships.
1.) Be weary of what you are being offered (in terms of financial aid packages.)
Schools, especially state institutions like CSULB, benefit greatly from students opting for financial aid packages because it means they get a steady stream of money from the government. When it comes to offering financial aid packages, schools tend to target incoming freshmen, who are often too young and financially inexperienced to really understand what they are committing to.
When I was entering school at 18, I definitely did not have the financial literacy to discern something that was a more or less a scam from something that would actually ease my financial burden. Without someone explaining how financial aid actually works, it is easy to make uninformed decisions that could negatively affect your postgraduate life.
2.) Financial aid packages that include work study mean you have to actually work for the money.
For some reason, there are common misconceptions surrounding the work-study packages that are a component on financial aid. This is how it works: you work at an hourly rate to earn the work-study award you have been granted in your financial aid package. The catch: more often that not, there is not enough employment available on campus to earn your award.
3.) A major component of financial aid packages is student loans.
Which often students view as free money it is NOT free money. Again, many incoming freshman are not financially literate enough to really understand the consequences and implications of paying back student loans. How loans actually work, coupled with no knowledge or real experience, it is hard to grasp the concept of compounding interest I certainly had no concept of these financial issues when I was entering college.
Additionally, as a freshman entering school you, probably aren’t thinking that far ahead, so you probably don’t realize that you will be required to start paying back loans very soon after you graduate. Due to interest, many students end up owing much more money then they initially borrowed.
If you’re interested in CSULB, check out our article on 5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Attending California State University, Long Beach.
4.) The only truly positive (aka “no strings attached”)!
Forms of financial aid are grants or awards and scholarships. If you know where to look and are committed to academic or athletic achievement, it is absolutely possible to find merit based scholarships. Departmental scholarships are a great place to start since you aren’t being considered against students in the entire university, but rather just within your department/major. For example, I was fortunate enough to get some scholarship money from the dance department three out of my four years at school.
Often these types of awards/scholarships are not widely advertised because there is not a ton of money to give out, so it takes a little bit of research. At CSULB, I found that a little extra effort went a long way in terms of finding scholarships and grants.
5.) There is a lot to be weary of regarding financial aid, but on the other hand.
financial aid packages provide opportunities for students who would otherwise never be able to attend college. as long as you are informed and have a realistic view of what you are being offered with a financial aid package, then you will be in a position to make a financially sound decision.
Isabel Rosenstock graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 2012 with a B.F.A. in Dance/Performance. Based in San Francisco, she is working as a freelance dance artist and a figurative model for painters/sculptors. In addition to her work as a dancer/model, Isabel enjoys writing, traveling, and working with children.