Financial Assistance: Myths Debunked, Assistance Offered



College Goal Maryland, a free event for everyone interested in getting answers and assistance with the financial aid process will be held at Garrett College on Thursday, Feb 7, 6-9 p.m. In addition to getting help in filling out the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA), participants may enter to win a $500 College Goal Scholarship. The FAFSA also qualifies students for the many Maryland State Scholarships.  Maryland requires a processing date of March 1st for the FAFSA.

Finding the funding for a college education is the often first hurdle of earning the degree or certificate that the student is striving for. Financial Aid is available for a majority of the students who apply, according to Cissy VanSickle, Director of Financial Aid at Garrett College.

“Many people don’t know how the financial aid process works. This is understandable. It can be complicated,” she said, adding that financial aid counselors attend regular training sessions so they can be equipped to help applicants get the greatest amount possible to defray college expenses and to dispel some of the widespread myths about financial aid.

Listed below are several of the most commonly held misconceptions about financial aid:

Myth: Financial aid is only for people with very low incomes. My family's income is too high.

Fact: The only way to determine qualification is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The formula used by the federal government to figure the amount a family is expected to contribute to a child’s college costs considers a number of factors including income, number of college-age children, age of the parents and the number of persons being supported by the household. Costs above that contribution can be covered by financial aid or low-interest government or private loans. There are some loans that may be used to cover the cost of the family contribution. Most schools will not consider applicants for college grants and scholarships if they have not applied for federal aid by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Myth: My high school grades aren't good enough to qualify for aid.

Fact: Most federal and state aid is based on financial need, not grades. Most programs will require that the student maintain an average grade point average to keep the aid. Many private scholarships and merit aid offers, grades don't count as much as one may think. Many use other criteria: financial need, leadership, residence, major, and heritage.

Myth: I won't be eligible for financial aid because I’m only going to college part-time.

Fact: Financial aid is available for part-time students. Prospective students may check with the college’s financial aid office for information on aid for part-time students.

Myth: Last year my brother didn’t qualify for financial aid, so I shouldn’t bother applying this year.

Fact: This may not be true because the number of family members in college has a big impact on financial aid eligibility.

Myth: The application process is too complicated. I can’t do it.

Fact: Most colleges require only the FAFSA in order to apply for assistance. Much of the information needed to fill out the FAFSA is found on family tax returns. On the 2013-2014 FAFSA students and parents are urged to use the new IRS Data Retrieval Tool that automatically pulls information from the IRS tax return and places the information in the correct FAFSA fields. In addition to the form's directions there is also online and telephone support available. The FAFSA can be filled out online and saved for future reference.

Myth: There isn’t enough aid for everyone.

Fact: Federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education is the largest source of aid in America, providing over $150 billion in grants, work-study, and federal loans for students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools. The State of Maryland also has an extensive array of financial aid programs in the form of grants, scholarships and other awards for students who want to further their education beyond high school.

Myth: Millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed every year.

Fact: The statement that private scholarship dollars go unclaimed is unfounded. One may search for scholarships online through sites such as www.fastweb.org

College Goal Maryland at Garrett College is open to students and families regardless of to what college they are applying. More information is available by contacting VanSickle in the Garrett College Financial Aid Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To register in advance for this College Goal Maryland event person may visitwww.CollegeGoalSundayMD.org

In order to complete the FAFSA at the College Goal Maryland Program, students and parents will need the following:

  • Social Security number (can be found on Social Security card)
  • Driver's license (if any)
  • 2012 income tax return (if completed)
  • 2012 W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • 2012 untaxed income records - Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans benefits records
  • 2012 bank statements
  • 2012 business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Alien registration card (if one who is not a U.S. citizen)