For most would-be college students, coming up with the full tuition amount is unrealistic. While tuition fees vary widely among the different types of nursing programs and the colleges that offer them, it’s likely that funding any type of degree will mean a substantial investment on your or your parents’ part. However, many funding options are available, including scholarships, government aid, and private loans. However, navigating the world of financial assistance and not incurring debt upon graduation are challenging tasks. Avoid these basic mistakes when searching for financial aid:
1. Not Applying for Government Financial Aid
Many students, assuming they aren’t eligible, completely miss out on any type of government financial aid because they simply don’t apply. However, most U.S. citizens and residents ARE eligible. Click here for full eligibility requirements. Your or your parents’ income does not necessarily mean that you won’t qualify for support. Factors other than income determine if you receive aid and the amount. More importantly, filling out the FAFSA may mean you receive scholarships as well as funding from your university, so always complete it to find all the available options.
2. Procrastinating Before Applying
Even though you have until the end of June to submit your FAFSA application, you should submit it as soon as possible. Doing so helps ensure that you receive more funds. Although state funding deadlines differ from federal, both state and federal governments use the information from your FAFSA application. Many states offer grants on a first-come, first served basis, which means the earlier you file, the more likely you are to receive a grant. On average, students who apply early receive twice as much grant funding as those who apply later or past their state deadline. Plus, the earlier you apply, the sooner you will be able to properly assess your financial situation. Research specific state deadlines here.
3. Providing Incorrect Information on Your FAFSA
The FAFSA application can be confusing. All the information must be up to date and accurate to ensure you receive your funding with no issues. Students typically make a number of mistakes; for example, some use a shorter version of their name instead of the official name stated on their social security card. Alternatively, reporting household size incorrectly, such as forgetting stepchildren or other dependents, is another serious error. Or, some students provide incorrect marital status. Research any questions you don’t understand or ask for assistance from a career counselor.
4. Avoiding Scholarships and Bursaries
Many people assume that only high-achieving students or athletes receive scholarships (called “bursaries” in the UK and Canada). While you will likely receive more funding if your records demonstrate academic merit and / or athletic achievement, many other scholarships carry a variety of requirements that may fit your talents and GPA. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of scholarships are available, with different eligibility criteria. Some are rated only on the specific essay you submit or even on luck. Supplementing your tuition fees or even the cost of books can help your finances, so apply, apply, apply! Remember: It costs only your time to apply for funding. Learn more about scholarships on the EveryNurse scholarships page.
5. Not Reading the Fine Print
Whether you are receiving a federal loan or borrowing from a private institution, you must understand exactly what you’re undertaking. Each loan has a different set of rules that covers everything from repayment to interest rates. For example, federal loans typically don’t charge interest rates while you’re studying; repayment begins after graduation. Federal funding is typically easier to obtain, but you may need to supplement it with a private loan from a bank. However, private loans usually incur interest while you’re studying. Apply to a variety of financial institutions and make sure to read the “legalese” on every offer before you choose.
6. Borrowing Too Much Money
A limit is typically imposed on federal loan amounts; however, a financial institution may offer more money than you need. While you might be tempted to use all the money available to live in a nicer area or buy some extras, it’s not a good idea. Use the loans only to cover tuition fees and basic living costs, which are typically already costly. Upon graduation, you’ll have to pay back what you’ve borrowed, and it’s rare to land a high-paying job immediately. Be conservative and borrow only the amount you really need.
7. Forgetting to Apply Next Year
An undergraduate degree in nursing typically takes three to five years to complete, while a higher-level degree can mean one to five years of study. FAFSA applications are annual and do not renew automatically, so you must apply every year. Even if you didn’t receive funding the previous year, continue to submit applications every year. It’s possible that your status has changed from dependent to independent over the course of your studies; your family income or household size has changed; or your grades are better. And remember: Apply early to receive more funds.
When you first begin researching college fees and tuition, you can get overwhelmed quickly. Tuition seems sky-high, so expensive that a degree appears to be out of reach. However, public universities can be quite affordable, especially with scholarships and financial aid. Many students do not pay the tag price for private universities and qualify for extra funding to reduce tuition rates. Thoroughly understand all your options and apply for any funding you may be eligible for. With research and good organization, your dream of becoming a nursing professional or advancing in your field may be within easy reach!