Don’t go crazy with financial aid

Getting financial aid can be a pain in the ass. Securing your money without some kind of hassle is pretty much impossible, but here are some financial aid tricks and tips to arm yourself with and help ease the pain.

Getting financial aid can be a pain in the ass. Securing your money without some kind of hassle is pretty much impossible, but here are some financial aid tricks and tips to arm yourself with and help ease the pain.

You might be hung over from a wild New Year’s Eve, but fill out the FAFSA on Jan. 1 anyway.
A new year means a new Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). Do not procrastinate. Do not wait a week, because a week may very well turn into two, two into six, and the next thing you know it’s July and you’re begging for a job at your neighborhood Taco Bell.

The earlier you fill out your FAFSA, the more money there is available for you to receive, and the more time you’ll have to fix anything that may go wrong. New to PSU? The same rules apply for any term of the year: FAFSA may be a bitch, but get off your ass and do it.

Always file your FAFSA electronically.
Paper forms are a thing of the past, and they slow down the process exponentially.

Have you filed your taxes?

On your FAFSA, you’ll be asked to mark a box indicating if you have filed your taxes, if you intend to file your taxes but haven’t yet or if you will not file your taxes.

The difference is very important—if you mark the “will file” box, the university may require you to turn in a pile of tax forms later on, slowing down the process of receiving your money.

If you mark the “have filed” box—or even if you haven’t—the chance of having to turn in a lot of extra paperwork is much slimmer.

But don’t do this, because lying is wrong—and illegal.

Ask every ridiculous question you can think of.

Asking questions is crucial to a pleasant financial aid experience, so ignore the impatient people behind you in line at the financial aid window—who cares if the person at the counter is getting irritated? Being just a little annoying will save you from months of mental anguish and past-due bills.
Always ask the same question twice.

Especially when it involves handing in required paperwork. Those people in the financial aid window may possess excellent customer service skills, but this doesn’t always mean they know what they’re talking about. Don’t be afraid to get back in line and ask your question again at a different window. Call the office later and ask them again. This usually eliminates delays due to incorrect or unclear information.

Jump through any hoops the very moment they appear in front of you.

There are students out there who will not receive their financial aid until after the end of the term. Why? Procrastination. Check until your eyes cross—you never know when a new requirement is going to pop up.

PSU will usually send you a postcard when there’s another form for you to turn in, but mail gets lost and tossed out by your drunken roommate. If you have a promissory note to sign, don’t wait a week, and if they want a copy of your dog’s birth certificate, take it in immediately.

Don’t drop below 12 credits. Ever.

Two year ago, PSU began to enforce a policy that examines your credit load in the middle of the term and adjusts your financial aid award accordingly. This means that if you drop below the number of credit hours you were awarded for, you could end up owing money.

Grant recipients should especially beware: the Oregon Opportunity Grants require that recipients attend full time, so even if you’re at 11 credits, you’re automatically considered ineligible for the grant and will owe it back in full.

Know your resources in case of a financial emergency.

Got yourself in a financial pickle? You can borrow up to $400 of your next financial aid disbursement to purchase books or cover other necessary expenses. To receive this loan, fill out a short form at the Accounts Receivable window in the Neuberger Hall lobby.

Another handy moneymaker is the computer loan. While not technically a loan, the computer loan does allow students to raise their estimated cost of attendance—the figure that caps how much money a student can borrow annually—to allow for $1000 toward a computer.

Students can then find an alternative loan or use any remaining Stafford Loan funds to pay for their new toy. The student must provide a receipt or print out the specifications and prices of the computer from the web.

Automatic deposit, automatic deposit, automatic deposit!

You have three aid disbursement options: paper check, automatic deposit into a checking account or having the money put into your OneCard account.

While the HigherOne card may seem like a sweet deal, and it’s true that the financial aid disburses two or three days earlier than the other disbursement options, HigherOne may end up costing you valuable financial aid dollars in the long run.

You get charged 50 cents for debit purchases, and if you take money out of an ATM other than the three HigherOne cash machines on campus, HigherOne will charge you $1.50 in addition to charges from the other bank.

Borrow only what you need.

Borrowing too much financial money is very tempting—the time when you’ll have to pay it back seems so far away, it feels like free money. Suddenly you can afford to eat out every night and go on lavish vacations.

But don’t fall into this common financial aid trap. According to a financial aid calculator available at, a $20,000 Stafford Loan will translate to a monthly payment of $230.16. So borrow with caution.