March 19, 2020

Tips to complete the Financial Aid application, from a Fulbright student

March 19, 2020

As the Spring admissions cycle for Class of 2024 is closing soon, students are rushing to finish their applications. Many questions have been sent to Fulbright asking about the Financial Aid application, which seems rather intimidating and complicated. Le Khanh Doan, a Fulbrighter from Ben Tre province shares tips from her own experience to help applicants complete their Financial Aid application successfully.

I knew Fulbright through a friend of mine, and I immediately started to get interested in how the school is constructed as well as the spirit of Fulbright. When I applied to the school, one of the most interesting parts were filling out the financial aid application. What appealed to me was the fact that this financial aid helps bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. The Vietnamese society is comprised of many social classes, and students from all backgrounds deserve a fair chance to get educated.

Through the application process, I learned more about my family’s finance, and I’m really glad I had the chance to participate in it.

Tip number 1: Start early.

The Admissions team had come to my high school once, and I asked them about the financial aid program. I also attended one of Fulbright’s demo classes in November 2018, and a session on financial aid. The Admissions and Financial Aid team answered many of my concerns about financial aid and helped me better understand Fulbright’s need-blind admissions process.

Yet, once I started working on my own application, it was not easy at all. I spent only three weeks out of the allotted three months to complete the admissions application, but the financial aid application took me an entire month. The financial aid application was challenging because it required a lot of information, for which my parents had to go to the bank many times and they had to search for documents they don’t usually use. It took a lot of time to collect them all and to complete the form.

Fortunately, my parents understood how important this was to me, so they were pleased to help me finish this application. After the application deadline, two of the Admissions officers directly came to my house, and my father were truly impressed with how the university really cares about the students.

The financial aid application is long, and it may be tiring. Some of my friends gave up halfway because there was so much information they had to provide, but I think it’s worth the time and effort, so don’t give up.

Tip number 2: Be honest.

While filling out the application, some people may feel uncomfortable disclosing private information. I myself felt that, having to share so many details about my family to “strangers”. But the more information you provide, the more transparent and accurate you are, the better they can assess the application and grant you the financial aid you deserve. It’s a win-win situation.

I think it’s mysterious how the Admissions team can discover the “hidden gems”. Not all students possess phenomenal extracurricular records or outstanding GPAs, but Fulbright sees potential in everyone. It’s interesting to be around individuals from different backgrounds, with different abilities. Once students are admitted to Fulbright, they are all eligible for the need-based financial aid. I know that the Admissions and Financial aid team evaluate each application very carefully, through many rounds before deciding on the offer, so you have to trust them and provide candid information.

Tip number 3: Understand the procedure

The financial aid is based on the student’s financial status, so it is different from one to another. To be honest, I had actually expected to receive a slightly higher offer of financial aid than the amount I got. We are a middle-class family, both of my parents have stable jobs and stable income but as I have a younger brother, my parents will have to save money for his education later on. I didn’t want my education to put too much of a financial burden on the family, but I believe the amount I received is fair and our family can accept that. Without the financial aid, I wouldn’t have been able to study at Fulbright.

People have asked me if my studying at Fulbright means my family have to live frugally. Actually, it’s not that different from our lifestyle in the past; I think we just need to be more careful with our spendings than we used to be since my education is biting into the family’s savings. We also have to be aware of the fees we now have to pay every semester, which is different because for the last 12 years of studying, my tuitions fees had been quite modest. But it is worth it, and I think we’re doing ok. It is true that the results vary and it may not match our expectations, but keep in mind that the university is fair and what you receive will be enough.

Moreover, the school has a policy that whenever our family has a sudden change in the family’s income, we can always submit a form to ask them to reevaluate the financial aid, and they will take that into consideration. Fulbright will make sure you get through four years of studying, so worry not!

All I’m trying to say is, this application is not as intimidating as it might seem. You just need to have enough time to gather all the necessary documents, be straightforward throughout the process, and trust the Admissions and Financial Aid team to take care of the rest.

Anh Thư reports




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