FAFSA and Nursing School Loan Strategies

While shopper’s remorse can sometimes be easily corrected by returning items to the store, it’s much harder to change course in the midst of your nursing education if you don’t put in the sweat equity to plan ahead for a rewarding education. And, to avoid crushing student-loan debts long after graduation.

Smart Planning for Nursing School

A Washington Post article (9/19/2009) quoted Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, who noted students defaulted at a higher rate if they borrowed more than twice the amount of their expected starting salary.

Michelle Singletary, in writing this piece, also suggested going to StudentLoanJustice.org to learn firsthand from students of loan repayments that have ballooned two to three times from the original amount. These are important considerations for taking out long-term educational loans.

Here are two major strategies to consider as you sail through another rite of passage to embark on your nursing career.

1. Set Your GPS on Course

You may have a nifty GPS (Global Positioning System) device in your car that shows you the route to arrive at your destination. Have you considered applying this principle to mapping out your nursing school strategy?

A strategy is essentially, a plan (or road map) that outlines:

A) Your career goals. For example, as you qualify along each step of the way—from LPN to RN and BSN—look out for a nursing specialty that matches your personality. If your dynamic energy thrills to emergency room operations you may want to explore similar dynamic nursing units. Or, your quiet personality may prefer caring for babies in the NICU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Every nursing specialty is challenging, but the surrounding environments are different for each. You owe it to your peace of mind to visit these units. Who knows, what may have appeared off-putting may just be your cuppa joe.

B) What tactics you’ll employ to get there, or how to translate your goals into realistic steps. For instance, identifying which schools to apply to in terms of programs or location to save on commuting time and costs.

2. Set Your Financial Compass

Being able to afford a top-notch professional education is a serious undertaking. Many students think that after graduating with a degree, they’ll be able to repay loans readily. Not so, given today’s recession—which may well change by the time you’ve graduated. Nevertheless, it pays to research options.

FAFSA First

First, log on to the Department of Education’s informative website for a Free Application for Federal Student Aid report commonly known as FAFSA at: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov to determine your eligibility. This online service is a time-and energy-saver as your application is processed electronically.

Second, scout out financial aid options offered by nursing schools you’re considering. Keep in mind that scholarships and grants don’t require repayment (either with time and/or money) while other forms of financial aid such as work-study and loans, do.

Third, list each option along with requirements for application, loan rates info and timelines for repayment plus other relevant contact info. Financial conditions change, so revisit your options every few months to update. Keep weighing your options to see which ones help you come out ahead. While updating, see if you can discern trends in financial aid to keep innovating your financial strategy to give you the best returns.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention can prevent pounds of cure later—in this case, a few more ounces of careful planning in advance of nursing school. What financially viable strategies have you used for your nursing education, or are now using? We’d love to hear from you!

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/19/AR2009091900100.html?hpid=topnews

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