Tips to Get You Started as You Apply for Financial Aid
Published: January 27, 2016
Hooray! You’ve decided to go to grad school, and that’s a big step. Now it’s time to figure out how to make that happen with both your time and your finances. The majority of iSchool students currently in attendance receive some kind of financial aid, so if you too are applying, you’re in good (and plentiful) company.
Getting Started with FAFSA
If you’re a student residing in the United States, the first place you’ll want to start for financial aid is the FAFSA site, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Start the financial aid process as you start your graduate school application process, so you’ll have the funds to make it possible to accept your spot at the iSchool. The iSchool staff recommends that you complete your financial aid application three to four months before your first semester begins. Planning ahead and staying organized with your financial aid will be good practice for keeping up with your coursework. Start to cultivate good habits planning and organizing before you begin school. Part of your plan should also be to check the FAFSA site for upcoming deadlines, which will vary by year and semester.
Vicki Robison of the student services team stresses the importance of planning ahead. “It is important that students apply for the FAFSA very early!” says Robison. “It can take up to six or eight weeks for aid to be approved, even after all paperwork is submitted.” So start your FAFSA early, and be sure to fill out the Student Aid Report you receive and send it to San Jose State. The university’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Office has this useful 7-Steps to Financial Aid chart and checklist to help you through the process.
Resources, Requirements and To-Do Lists
If you are a current student, start with the Canvas Advising site. From there, click on Advising and Administration and then scroll way down to the bottom and read Financial FAQs under Registration, Enrollment and Procedures. The iSchool’s Online Student Advisor Sheila Gurtu has put together a lot of really good, clear information here, so you can get started in the right place and have the resources you need when you have questions. Be sure to check out all the links and the orientation videos available, and go through those frequently asked questions to see if you can find the answer to your question. There is also a staggering number of grants and scholarships listed toward the bottom of the page. Ahem, note to self—American Association of Law Libraries? A Student Writing Award? Hmm… Scholarship deadlines are in March, and a iStudent Blog post on scholarship opportunities will be forthcoming.
You’ll need to keep some requirements in mind as your begin to apply for financial aid, and many of these are listed on your financial aid forms, the SJSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office website, and the Canvas site FAQs. You’ll need to be taking at least four units of 200-level classes to be eligible for part-time financial aid and eight units for full-time aid. To be considered a full-time graduate student by the Office of the Registrar, you need to be enrolled in at least nine units of 200-level classes. You will also need to keep your grades up to maintain your eligibility, and the university has requirements for that, too. See the SJSU page on Academic Progress for the details.
“Students really need to stay on top of their MySJSU to-do list,” says Gurtu, “and keep track of the items required of them by SJSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office.” This handy list is located on your MySJSU Student Center page on the right side. Four blue boxes below that is the SJSU Financials box, with essential links to the Financial Aid and Bursar’s Offices. The Finances link on the left in blue is another page to use and check frequently.
Once you’ve submitted all the documents from your to-do list, you will receive a fee deferral, which will keep you enrolled in your courses while you wait for your aid request be finalized.
Friendly advice and Further Info
Keep in mind, especially if you haven’t yet begun your graduate coursework at the iSchool, that taking on full-time student aid—which means full-time and nine units (three classes at three units each, or some combination that includes one- and two-unit courses)—is pretty intense. Sometimes life outside of school gets crazy, and if you have any sort of employment or family, they may be demanding some of your precious time. Full-time graduate student is full-on commitment. Don’t just take my word for it—the iSchool has a bit of advice on this subject too.
Please note that neither Vicki Robison nor Sheila Gurtu has access to student financial records. The Canvas advising site recommends contacting the following people through the SJSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office if you need assistance:
- If you’re a Regular Session student, contact the SJSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office for assistance.
- If you’re a Special Session student, you’re also eligible for financial aid and scholarships. Contact Carol Garcia at email@example.com by email or by phone (408) 924-6081 if you have questions about financial aid, semester leave that might affect your loans, or any issues with fee deferral.
To read more from the blog about financial aid, scholarships and other monetary resources, be sure to check out the following posts: