Last updated: January 17. 2014 6:31PM - 554 Views
Lauren Williams Staff Writer

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As high school seniors anticipate graduation in the spring and with college ahead for many come next fall, Sampson County’s four high schools will host financial aid nights for college-bound seniors and their families as a way to help guide them through the, at times, difficult and overwhelming financial aid process.

“We’re holding these financial aid nights to assist parents and students, letting them know what financial aid is and how to correctly apply for it,” shared Rosemary Simpson, college advisor and scholars coordinator for Lakewood and Midway High schools. “Our objectives are to answer questions like, ‘What is financial aid?’, ‘What are some of the costs of colleges?’, ‘How can I determine if I am eligible for financial aid?’, ‘Are there alternatives to financial aid?’, and most importantly, ‘How do I complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?’”

According to information provided by Bambi Dove, college advisor and scholars coordinator for Hobbton and Union High schools, seniors, whether they’re planning to attend a community college or a four-year university, should make plans to attend one of the four financial aid sessions.

Hobbton High School will hold its financial aid night Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. where the Bryan Scholarship will be made available; Union High School will hold its session Monday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.; Midway High School’s financial aid night is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.; and Lakewood High School’s is planned for Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

“The nights are open to all seniors and parents. Each Sampson County high school will hold their own financial aid night and all are welcome. If a family has a conflict with the scheduled nights, they can certainly attend another school’s information night,” Simpson added.

Both Simpson and Dove stressed the importance of students and parents taking time to attend one of the nights and receive accurate, and free, financial aid information.

“It is extremely important for parents to be educated on this as there are scams out there,” noted Simpson, giving as an example organizations that offer to find more aid for students and then charge a fee. “FAFSA is free and one should never pay for information about financial aid. It’s a great night for parents to come out and be actively involved with their seniors on a very important topic.”

“Many colleges require FAFSA information by March 1 and numerous scholarship opportunities require FAFSA’s SAR (student aid report) to be submitted with the application,” shared Dove. “Several myths surround FAFSA. Many students think their parents earn too much money or think their grades aren’t good enough to receive financial aid. Actually, there is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid and many colleges require you to complete FAFSA to be considered for non-federal aid or merit scholarships. Also, most federal financial aid programs do not take a student’s grades into consideration.”

In addition to much valuable information being provided, Judye Tart, Financial Aid Director for Sampson Community College, will also be at the nights to offer advice and help students and their parents through the financial aid process.

Describing Tart as “the guru of financial aid,” Simpson expressed appreciation for her involvement.

“We are so appreciative that she shares her time, energy and expertise with us,” Simpson said, noting that “she will cover sources of financial aid, federal aid programs, N.C. aid programs, loan pros and cons, and the difference in the type of loans available including what the difference is in merit-based dollars and need-based dollars and expected family contributions.”

“Students have worked hard to get into college and now comes the really hard part — paying for college. Money is out there; we just need to find it,” Simpson continued. “What better investment can you give yourself than an education?”

For more information about the upcoming financial aid nights, please contact Dove at bdove@sampson.k12.nc.us or Simpson at rsimpson@sampson.k12.ns.us.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.

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