Here’s my experience with financial aid thus far: you click a few buttons, give a little personal information and voila…they give you money. Easiest $55k anyone has ever made. However, as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
I’m maybe the dumbest person I know financially. I didn’t understand interest until the age of 20, and I’m still shaky on what the term “tax deductible” means. The most experience I have with bills is setting up an automatic online payment for my apartment rent. In college, I lost my debit card probably five times and often got letters from the bank that did not say “Great job with your spending this month!” In fact, usually just the opposite.
So, the question is, why on earth would the government give any amount of money to a person like me? The answer is kind of flattering. They think I’m an investment! Having more eye docs all over the country is worth it to them to give serious coin to a bunch of 20-somethings. If our education is a new house, FAFSA is our mortgage.
The details of federal aid are much more daunting. Maybe not to everyone, but certainly to me. I’ve vowed to be done burying my head in the sand; from here on out I’m going to TRY to understand my financial aid better because I don’t want trouble down the road. The other day my mom was helping me break down the components of my reward and I could not understand the concept of work study. A solid twenty minutes and a lame metaphor later, I finally got it. (Turns out it’s not money in your pocket for shopping, as I had originally thought.)
The point here is: if you’re financially challenged like me, ASK! Surround yourself with people who actually know what is going on with your aid. Some of us don’t have an economic-minded brain and that’s ok. I truly do think optometry school is worth the investment, but the financial aid package is too much money to not know what you owe. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about ICO’s financial aid department. They say we can always come to them for help and I think I will be taking them up on that offer a lot this year.
Shakespeare said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Well, sorry Shakespeare, but times have changed and some of us need to borrow! While most of us can’t avoid loans, we can avoid being oblivious. I’m going to work hard to understand my FAFSA and who knows, maybe I’ll even cut down on the amount of debit cards I lose this year.