The Wacky World of Financial Aid

I’ve spent the last six years navigating the sometimes confusing world of financial aid. What has gotten me through it? I push, ask, pester, and research until I figure something out because despite my moments of sheer panic, ultimately, failure is not an option for me.

I’m stubborn that way.

This last round with financial aid, though, almost had me beat. My masters program requires that I student teach in a high school setting for my final semester. With no pay. AND I have to pay for nine credit hours. Six of those credit hours are for the Clinical Teaching Semester and the remaining three are for the Professional Seminar. Up to this point, I’ve been working as a grad assistant on campus and I’ve had my tuition paid for me by my department. This upcoming semester, however, required my full attention so I wasn’t going to have the luxury of having those nine hours paid for on top of being without the stipend I normally get as a grad assistant. I was going to have to come up not only with $5200 for tuition, but also figure out how I was going to pay my rent, my car note, utilities, gas, etc. I was in a panic. I saw my only options were to either put off graduating and find a job to pay the bills or to get a job teaching on a transitional license, but I have no teaching experience. I put my resume out there and got a few interviews, but without work experience, I could only provide theoretical scenarios for how I would handle my classroom.

Then one day last week, one of my grad student peers approached me with a question about his own financial aid. After talking with him, I looked my own financial aid up again, idly looking through it on the off-chance that I may have missed something. I clicked on the grad assistance fee waiver portion and it came up with this message:

“An ‘Est Grad Assist Fee Waiver’ is posted on ALL GRADUATE students’ accounts to prevent over payment. You should check with your department to see if they have any Graduate Assistant positions available. If you already know that you are NOT going to be a Graduate Assistant AND wish to obtain more student loans, please go to to complete the Other Financial Assistance Notice Form for the applicable aid year.”

I looked up the form and called the financial aid office. They informed me that since my tuition had been taken care of by my department, that meant I had additional financial aid funds I could access.

I felt like a 2-ton weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Not only do I now have enough money to pay my tuition, I will have enough money to pay my bills and not have to worry about medical or other unexpected expenses for me or kiddo. I can now truly enjoy summer break. 
The moral of the story? If you are in college and you think you don’t have the money to pay for your upcoming semester, go by the financial aid office and just lay it all out for them and ask them what options you have. You never know – you may have missed something. 

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