A Student's Viewpoint on Student Loans and Financial Aid

As a senior in high school I had a very exciting road to go down in my near future: college. I had been offered several scholarships for both singing and the dramatic arts from several different institutions, but I had finally selected the one that was right for me. I was the first one in my close and extended family to attend college so no one in my family knew how all of the financial processes worked and I began to get a little concerned when I saw that my scholarships left a bit of a gap that I would have difficulty filling if I went to school full time. I saw my guidance counselor at school and she referred me to the financial aid department at the college itself. I spoke to a very helpful lady there and she explained that I would need to fill out a FASFA form and send it in. I sent it in and got it back with a full description of all the aid I was being given. It included my scholarships as well, and took into my account that my parents would not be able to contribute to my college funding. When I looked I was relieved to see that there was enough aid there to cover all of my college expenses including food, books, tuition and lodging.

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As I read down the long list of items, I saw scholarships, grants and at the bottom, two small loans. I asked my financial aid rep about them and she informed that they were student loans. These loans had a low interest rate of 3.5% that would not start being added until after I graduated. I also would not have to start paying them back until sixth months after I graduated, to give me time to find a job. If I had trouble finding a job or were to become unemployed, I could opt to put my loans on hold or forbearance for a year or until I found a job. I was a little apprehensive, but I decided to bite the bullet and sign the necessary forms to get my financial aid finalized so I could register for my first semester. I had to fill out my FAFSA every year to re-apply and I had to take out new student loans every year. When I graduated I was able to consolidate all of the loans into one large loan with a low interest rate. My payments were fairly low and I could pay them on line, which made it really easy. I did have some times where I had to put the loans on consolidation, but that just involved filling out a little paperwork and sending it in. Overall, my financial aid experience was a good one, and I was grateful for the scholarships, grants and even the loans. The loans were drawn up in such as way that the interest rates were low and the payments were manageable.

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