Many of us have heard the horror stories of college students losing their financial aid or being on academic probation, but how did they get there? It is easier to do than you might think. Most students are not aware of their college’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements and end up paying the price. To avoid these simple mistakes from happening to you, review these tips to stay on the path of receiving your financial aid.
Review the SAP policy
Not all students are aware there are requirements to continue receiving financial aid. You can find these stipulations in your college’s Satisfactory Academic Progress policy. The SAP policy outlines the grade point average, credit completion requirements, and progress toward graduation within a certain timeframe required to remain eligible for aid. It will also layout the appeal process (if there is one for your school) necessary if you would like to attempt to regain your financial aid after losing it. Each semester before registering for classes, consider your schools SAP policy requirements or, if you want more guidance, it is a good idea to meet with your academic advisor.
Know your credit completion requirements
In order to remain eligible for financial aid, students need to meet credit completion requirements. This means you must complete a certain percentage of credits for which you registered. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to your school’s add/drop periods. If you do not drop a class within the add/drop timeframe, this class will show it was not completed and be counted toward your cumulative assessed credits. This not only shows as a “W” (withdrawal) on your transcript, but also lowers your cumulative assessed credits percentage. Stay up-to-date on your college’s academic calendar to know when your add/drop periods are so you are not caught off guard.
Keep your GPA up
Getting good grades in college is not just a matter of pride. It is also a way to keep your financial aid rolling in. Many colleges have grade point average requirements necessary for continuing to receive aid, which can be found in your school’s SAP policy. To help keep your GPA in good standing, consider your work-life-school balance. If you find yourself beginning to struggle, be sure to seek out tutoring, chat with your professor, and seek help from your academic advisor.
Make progress toward graduation
In order to continue receiving aid, you must make progress toward graduation. Some factors that can impact your progress include continually changing your major, needing to repeat classes, and withdrawing from or failing to complete courses. Again, it is very important to meet periodically with your academic advisors to ensure you are staying on track and taking the correct and necessary courses required for graduation. It is also recommended by most colleges to meet with your major’s department head or department advisor as you move closer to graduation to ensure your requirements are fulfilled.
What to do if you lose aid
Before you lose your aid, you are typically given a financial warning. When you receive this warning, it is great time to meet with your advisors, reconsider your work-life-school balance, and to focus on your GPA and completing your courses. If you end up in a situation where you have lost your financial aid, you can also refer to your school’s SAP policy to see if they offer an appeal process. This process usually consists of writing a letter stating the hardship you have faced that caused you to struggle academically. Examples of hardship may include, but are not limited to, the death of a family member, illness or injury. If your appeal is denied, you will have to seek alternative sources for financial aid such as private student loans. Depending on the loan and your situation, you may need a cosigner, may be limited on the amount you can borrow, and the payments may or may not be deferred (postponed until after graduation).
Ask for help
No matter what stage of your academic career you are in, it is always important to ask for help if you begin to struggle. Resources are abundant on campus, but help can also take the form of familial support, friends, and personal counselors. Using your resources and taking initiative are the best practices to having a successful college career, even when it comes to financial aid.