Going to college is an investment that pays off and finding financial aid to reduce out-of-pocket costs is a typical part of that process. Our financial aid team works hard to support you through the financial aid process, helping make college more affordable. One of the most credentialed financial aid counselors in New Hampshire—Melissa Gray—happens to work here at Granite State. We chatted with Melissa to gain insights about how the process works and to get a few helpful tips.
Is the financial aid process difficult?
Actually it can be easy, if you take your time and gather the right info. The first step is to get an FSA ID. Without one, you can’t apply for federal student aid. It might take a few days before you’re allowed to use your login to apply for assistance, so be patient. Oh, and once you have that username and password, don’t forget it! If you do, in the worst case situation, you might lose access to your account for up to 10 days until a new username and password can be sent to you. The good news is that your FSA ID works throughout your college career, you only have to create it once.
I have my FSA ID, so what’s next?
Now it’s time to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) for the correct financial aid year. When you fill out the form, there is an excellent timesaver you’ll want to use. It’s called the I.R.S. Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT), and it takes all of the related income and tax data from the U.S. tax forms it requests and transfers it into your FAFSA®. Once you have completed the FAFSA® and Financial Aid receives notification, we will try to award you enough grants, scholarships, or low-interest student loans to cover your tuition, fees, and books for two classes each term. If you have any outstanding requirements, we will be in touch via email or a letter in the mail.
How long does it take to fill out the FAFSA® and are there any tips to ensure that I do it right?
Most people can finish it in well under an hour. The U.S. Department of Education’s blog has a great list of common FAFSA® mistakes. It’s definitely worth a read and might help you avoid some stress down the line. If you have any questions, call our office at (888) 228-3000 x392 or email us at email@example.com.
Is there anything special/different about how we handle tuition assistance?
We try to help students minimize their debt by initially awarding just enough financial aid to cover tuition, fees, and books. It’s never a good idea to have too much student loan debt after college.
What makes for a good financial aid experience?
You should know that we’re always looking out for you. It’s our goal to find you the highest level of tuition assistance for your situation. So, when we ask for additional forms and documents, it’s because we want to help, and not to make the process more complicated.
What can students do to help streamline the process?
Once you have filled out all of your forms, you’ll want to log in to WebROCK to see if we had any other questions. WebROCK is a one-stop shop for financial aid, enrollment, grades, bill paying, and more. Also, we think it’s important for you to know that you should always reach out to us with questions—that’s what we’re here for.
You’ve been working in financial aid for quite a while. What got you interested in the field?
When I was a freshman in college, I began a work study program in the financial aid office. I did a lot of paper filing and mailing of award letters. It wasn’t exciting, but it gave me a foot in the door and now I have a chance to help others. Today, I’m proud to be part of a team that pays a lot of attention to detail and treats our students with compassion, patience, and a good sense of humor. It’s always a great feeling when someone I’ve worked with graduates and writes to thank me for making the financial side manageable.
Recently, you were honored by the NH Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NHASFAA). Congratulations!
I’m fortunate to be working at a college that takes financial aid seriously and offers us training through the NHASFAA. From February 2016 to October 2017, I earned 12 out of 17 possible NASFAA University credentials. At our annual conference, I was presented with a Certificate of Achievement for having the most in the state at that time. But it is also worth mentioning that as a college, our office has the second highest number of credentials in the state!
Beyond the formal trainings you attend, how do you stay connected to the profession?
I really enjoy helping families with the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF). For the past few years I’ve volunteered doing FAFSA® filing. Some families have an incredibly hard time completing the FAFSA®, so getting them through the application quickly and without too much trouble is incredibly rewarding. Recently, I became part of NHASFAA's training committee, so I'm also enjoying helping others excel in the profession.