Need help understanding financial aid?

Published 5:12 pm Monday, February 11, 2013

Kathy Leaver, left, lays the groundwork at PHS Financial Aid Night for an upcoming Feb. 19 opportunity at Pelham High School.

By CONNIE NOLEN/Community Columnist

College financial aid is confusing. I’m helping my second child navigate the uncertain waters of paying for college.

My oldest graduated from college in December of 2011. Thanks to my competition writing class and my junior English classes, I’ve assisted many students seeking scholarships.

My students’ and my children’s experiences have taught me a great deal.

Recently, PHS counselors and Kathy Leaver, who serves as the high school gifted education and college advising instructor for Shelby County Schools, hosted Pelham High School’s Financial Aid Night educating the audience on the complicated language of college financial aid.

Explaining terms such as EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), SAR (Student Aid Report), COA (Cost of Attendance) and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) eased the stress of families facing the transition from high school to college.

So who seeks financial aid?

Financial aid is for smart shoppers. Many students want to seek scholarships, but not financial aid. Of course, scholarships, grants and loans are all financial aid; however, many students don’t grasp this concept initially.

Financial aid is a broad term meaning any financial assistance with the cost of a college education.

Not applying for financial aid is comparable to finding out that a shirt you’re buying is on sale when the cashier totals your purchase — and refusing to pay the sale price, insisting that you have enough money to pay full price.

Would a wise consumer refuse a
reduced price?

Financial aid leads students to college educations that create adult lives they love—not mountains of debt and student loans.

Applying for financial aid is frequently a requirement for scholarships based on grades and test scores.

Completing the FAFSA online at starts the federal financial aid seeking process.

On Feb. 19, PHS senior counselor Laura Cochran, along with Kathy Leaver, will assist parents completing the FAFSA.

For details, check out the counseling center blog under Laura Cochran online on the PHS Faculty list.

Click on “Financial Aid Information” near the top of the page to learn more about this opportunity. Your college graduate will thank you.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at