Financial aid forms, offices, workers, and buildings are ridiculously scary and confusing. Most people don’t know what forms they need to fill out to receive financial aid, they have no idea where to send forms once they figure out how to do them, and they don’t know who to contact with any questions. Financial aid offices are usually really busy and offer little to no help, so students are perpetually confused. To try and understand this confusion, I asked a few peers at Wellesley College, Gettysburg College, Drexel University, and the University of Delaware what they thought about financial aid.
Not surprisingly, the participants had no idea what they were talking about. When asked about where they thought financial aid came from, Chuck (University of Delaware, ’19), told me “leprechauns.” Jordanne (Wellesley College, ’19) immediately laughed. “Rich alums?” she asked. Nobody really knows.
Jayant, a freshman at Drexel University, was a bit more confident in his response: “[A] bunch of places. Like the school and the government and Wawa has scholarships.”
Students at Wellesley College weren’t entirely sure where the financial aid office was located on campus. Jordanne ‘19 thinks it is in Billings. Eilis ‘19 thinks it is in Schnieder (“[I]t is in Schnieder, right?”). Rosanne ‘19 doesn’t really know what the building is called. She does know that is is located “between the crevice of the chapel and Clapp Library.” Other Wellesley students cared more about the interior design. “I like what they’ve done with the place. It’s actually really bright!” said Linda, ‘18.
The thought of financial aid brings back dark memories, regardless of how bright the building is. When I asked what first came to mind when I mentioned financial aid, I received miserable responses.
“I don’t think about it because of the dark memories associated with it.” – Linda, Wellesley ‘18
“Anxiety.” – Meredith, Wellesley ‘16
“Unrelenting tears that roll down my face.” – Rosanne, Wellesley ‘19
“Leprechauns.” – Chuck, U of D ‘19
“I don’t have anything.” – Liam, Gettysburg ‘19
And the pessimism does not stop there. I also asked participants about their experiences working with their college’s respective financial services. Their responses were no less miserable than before. Liam summed up his time at the Gettysburg financial aid office: “I mean, I didn’t get any help. They were kind of like ‘Uh, you don’t need any financial aid,’ and I had to leave.” Meredith was ultimately “defeated” after visiting Wellesley’s Student Financial Services. Eilis told me that it was “really, really lame.”
The most upsetting response I received was from Rosanne, who “got rejected like I do in every tinder date.” So sorry, Rosanne. So, so sorry.
On a more serious note, student financial services lost every single tax return that Anna, Wellesley ‘18, ever sent into them: “One time, they called when I was in a senior in high school and they said they needed a form, so I faxed it to them. While I was on the phone with them, they received the fax, and I received a confirmation. Then, like, two weeks later, they called and told me that they lost the form I just faxed in. My first year, to avoid this, I physically turned in a copy, and they lost that one too.”
What is this? Why is this whole process so draining and confusing? Does financial aid seriously pain everyone?
Apparently, yes. 90% of the participants said that the financial aid office makes their heart hurt. Liam, Gettysburg ‘19, almost couldn’t keep himself together: “[I]t makes me cry. I hear the name, and it makes me cry. I need to go off camera to cry.” Chuck, U of D ‘19, had no complaints about his heart health, but he did say financial aid makes his brain hurt. And he’s a physics major. If financial aid makes the brain of a physics major hurt, I really don’t know what else there is to do.