You’re a college student fresh out of high school. You are ready and hungry for knowledge. First things first though, signing up for classes and if you need it, financial aid. So you go on campus and find Wilson Hall and enter one of the most depressing miserable looking buildings you’re likely to ever see in your time at Camden County College. You sign in and sit in a sweltering hot room with other students, at this point your resolve is shaken but still strong, all you have to do it fill out some papers and you’ll be on your way to becoming an official college student! Except when you talk to a financial aid worker and he or she asks you to fill out many pages of paper work sometimes containing and asking for things you have never even heard of before. If you get stuck the college has provided not one but two books full of ‘helpful’ information. Sound overwhelming? Well it should, because that is what’s being asked of you, the student that is applying for financial aid. And although this may sound like a herculean task, it can be done.

With up to 72% of students in the US today receiving financial aid, this should be important to a lot of undergraduates either coming to college for the first time or even returning ones. As stated before financial aid can be a very tricky thing, especially if you wait until the last minute. Probably the most important part of the entire financial aid process is the FAFSA. Now the FAFSA at least according to Wikipedia is, “a form that can be filled out annually by current and anticipating college students (both undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for federal student financial aid.” So basically it’s a form that’s asks you a whole lot of questions concerning you or your family’s financial situation for that year. A lot of it has to do with taxes, how big your house is and even the make and model of your car (seriously!) Now granted, this isn’t the case for all students applying but it has been known to happen.  Much more information can also be found in the “Financial Aid Handbook for Camden County College” specifically on page ten which lists all of the possible forms that a student would have to fill out which tops out at ten forms.

College students, when asked seemed to have generally good things to say when it came to Financial Aid. Danielle Porcelli, a Nursing student, stated that she had a good experience with financial aid but said it wasn’t without its flaws, “Sure [Financial Aid] was helpful but there’s a lot they could do to somehow streamline the system.”  Danielle said. She also cited major setbacks that she had encountered due to not having the right information at hand or because she did not understand what exactly the system wanted out of her.  Another student, Jessica Bier, majoring at the college is on financial aid and said that she found the very idea of financial aid to be effective and crucial to her obtaining her major. When asked if she thought the system had become a crutch for some students to lean on she had this to say, “College can be pretty stressful, jobs are stressful and trying to balance both can be a challenge. So while it can be used as a crutch for some students, it can be a very useful crutch.” So while the process of financial aid is arduous, the benefits really do pay off. The financial aid office when asked seemed willing to give an interview but never wrote back.

Financial aid is a government run system that millions of students utilize every year. And while it may be one of the most confounding systems you’ll ever have to work through, the effort can be worth the reward. Without it many students would never be given the chance to succeed in their scholastic careers. It may not be the best way to get through college but it certainly beats missing out on what could have been just because you couldn’t foot the bill. Now about those financial aid books….

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