As you begin the process of applying for financial aid, here are things to keep in mind:
- The Process Colleges differ in their financial aid policies. Doing some research into how each institution handles financial aid will help you understand the process. For example, at Wheaton College financial aid is awarded primarily on the basis of financial need, thus there is little merit aid as compared to some institutions.
- Our Guidelines and Parameters Financial aid administrators must work within strict federal, state, and institutional guidelines in order to be in compliance with the law and to be good stewards of resources.
- Confidentiality Please know that your information is kept confidential, and once it is no longer needed, it is shredded on-site. Also, we ask for a student's ID number when parents or students call for information not merely for our convenience, but as a protective measure for the student's information. Furthermore, federal FERPA laws govern the information we can give to the student about the parent and vice versa.
- Thinking Ahead Consider how your situation might look not just for the coming year but in years ahead. For instance, if the number of siblings in college changes, it may significantly change the amount of financial aid a student will receive. Other circumstances can also affect the amount of aid awarded from year to year. Accordingly, we reassess financial aid yearly (which means parents and students need to reapply every year).
- Plan Ahead At Wheaton College we ask for financial information based on the previous calendar year's tax information (for the 2013-2014 academic year, we ask for the 2012 tax information). The earlier families can have their tax information together, the earlier they can apply for financial aid (but no earlier than January 1 in any given year). Sometimes families are asked to verify the financial information on their applications. For this reason, keep all documents related to financial aid, taxes and finances in one place so that if you are asked to provide information, it will be convenient. Encourage your student to do the same. Check our website for updates. Particularly with regards to federal changes in processing financial aid, there have been significant changes in the past year.
- Communication Financial aid is awarded to the student; therefore, Wheaton College policy is to communicate with the student first as the person who will ultimately be responsible for his or her finances. This means that all departments communicate with students once they are enrolled. They do this via myWheaton and email. For that reason, we ask them to check both Wheaton email and myWheaton regularly and to give information to their parents. A good question to ask your student is, “Have you checked email and myWheaton?”
- Student Involvement For the same reason, we encourage students to be as involved in the financial aid process as possible. Often, the more involved the student is, the smoother the financial aid process goes.
- Accuracy Just as accuracy and completeness is important for tax forms, so it is with financial aid forms. Please check paperwork and online documents for accuracy, completeness and signatures to avoid delays in processing.
- Contacting Our Office During our busy seasons (March through June and the start of each semester), we have a very high volume of incoming phone calls which can mean that callers often reach voice mail. Please leave a message and have patience. We do try to return calls as quickly as possible. Another option for communicating with us is by email to email@example.com.
- Billing Account statements are sent to the student's mailbox on campus during the semester. If a student requests a change in billing address in Student Accounts, statements can be sent directly to the parents instead.
Start early and follow up. Feel free to ask questions. See Financial Aid Tips for more helpful ideas.