Biggest Mistakes Students Make When Seeking Financial Aid


“The biggest mistake I see is depending on people to lead you along. You have to be proactive. Do your research and be ready with questions to ask your admissions and financial aid officers.”

– Paul Crook, associate professor of theatre, University of South Carolina Aiken

“Simply not asking enough questions. Make us look for answers within our own university.”

– Kelly Berry, director of theatre, Georgia Southern University

“They only see the sticker price of a college and don’t further investigate other sources of aid.”

– Jacob Browne, director of admissions, Eckerd College

“Not asking questions! There are so many amazing people willing to help. Ask as many questions as you need.”

– Kristen Bennett, visit/performing arts recruitment coordinator, Alma College

“Focusing on the award amount and not the overall program costs. Always reach out to programs directly.”

– Eric van Baars, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, Kent State University


“The biggest mistake families make regarding financial aid is not applying. You may be eligible for assistance and not even know it! With many programs, the financial aid package isn’t completely determined until after admission is offered. Don’t let concerns over tuition keep you from applying and finding out what opportunities you could have.”

– Mica Harrison Loosemore, director of recruitment and enrollment, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

“They don’t ask for an increase. If a student wants to attend a specific school, oftentimes students can negotiate to get a better offer and that will be enough to allow them to attend the college of their choice.”

– Tara Warfield, chair, Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre, Shorter University

“Students and parents just take the first offer or don’t bother applying at all.”

– Natalie Robin, head, Theatre Design and Technology Department, University of the Arts


“Not doing a FAFSA and not applying for specific scholarships. Nearly all of our awards require submission of a FAFSA whether a family needs or doesn’t need financial aid. At the end of the recruiting season, we actually had more scholarship funds that we could have handed out to incoming freshmen that went unused.”

– Richard Dunham, chair, Department of Theatre and Cinema, Radford University

“Students neglect to search additional scholarships offered by various theatre organizations. They need to be proactive to seek those opportunities.”

– Alan Yeong-Marcello, professor of theatre, University of West Georgia

“Continue to apply for scholarships after your freshman year. Every year, apply for new ones as they apply to you.”

– Jeni Parker, assistant director, School of Theatre and Dance, East Carolina University

“They don’t apply to everything that’s out there. We have so many students that participate in our productions that could have received an award had they only auditioned. If a student sings, audition for the music department also. Stack up as many scholarships as possible. The SETC scholarships have far fewer applicants than they should. Students aren’t taking advantage of all opportunities.”

– Gregory A. Mach, associate professor of theatre, West Virginia Wesleyan College

“Not doing enough research, and not starting early enough looking for non-university-specific scholarship opportunities.”

– Tom Burch, associate professor of scenic design, University of North Carolina at Charlotte


“Never tell a department you are auditioning for that this is the only school you are applying to. Scholarships are used to attract students, not to reward loyalty.”

– Daniel Gordon, chair, Theatre and Dance Department, Winthrop University


“Not filing state financial statements required for financial aid.”

– Brian Jones, chair, Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

“Not filling out the proper forms on time.”

– Chris Flynn, theatre and speech instructor, Pearl River Community College


This aside originally appeared in Southern Theatre, The Magazine of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Volume LXII Number 1, Winter 2021 as a special section in our article Professors and Other Experts Share Advice on Financing Your Theatre Degree by Amy Cuomo

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