I went to school for Political Science and was also working my way toward a second major in Statistics. I entered with a year's worth of AP credits, so I wasn't worried about timing or financial aid with a 10-semester and 180-attempted hour cap. I figured I'd take 5 years and try and make the most of my time at school.
So I went throughout my undergrad taking all the courses I wanted to take. I took courses outside of my major that seemed fun, interesting, or challenging, because I wanted to really explore other fields and make the most of my education. If I didn't feel like one of those courses was going well, I'd drop it halfway through the semester - no harm, right? Didn't show up on my transcript, didn't count as an attempted hour.
At the start of my 4th year I received a letter from the Financial Aid office saying I would hit my cap this semester and that I would no longer be receiving aid afterward. I was confused. I pulled up my transcript showing something like 102 attempted hours, brought it into the FinAid office, and asked them to confirm. The woman said it must have been an error on their part. She told me she would correct it and that that was that. So I continued on as usual.
The start of the next semester I received a letter saying I was no longer receiving financial aid. I e-mailed FinAid and asked that they fix this since obviously I hadn't hit my cap and since they already made this mistake and supposedly corrected it.
I get an e-mail back linking the Financial Aid Office's definition for "Attempted Hours"
According to the Financial Aid Office, "Attempted Hours" include:
Earned AP credits
Hours I am enrolled in 14 days into the semester
This is news to me, because according to the College's definition, with which I was familiar, "Attempted Hours" include:
On my transcript, there were a few sections for "Hours" including
It turns out that "Billed Hours" is FinAid's equivalent to "Attempted Hours", defined as "Attempted Hours" on FinAid's website.
So they cut off my Financial Aid and I had to appeal. They gave me the last semester and told me they would no longer be able to fund me afterward, so I would need to graduate.
So I graduated in 4 years with a degree in Political Science. No minor, no second major. I could have completed this major in 2.5 years if I had known how this was going to turn out. And I could have at least saved a semester if the FinAid office hadn't mistakenly told me that everything was alright when it wasn't.
You can say it was my fault. Sure I should have investigated further when I started school. Sure I should have discovered that there were separate definitions for "Attempted Hours" between the College and FinAid. But I knew the definition, why would I have to look further?
To summarize: I was not aware of a difference in definition of "Attempted Hours" between the College and the Financial Aid Office. Because of this, I unexpectedly hit my 180 credit hour cap on financial aid by the middle of my 4th year. I was therefore unable to complete my second major, and spent 1.5 years of unnecessary time pursuing my first.
Because I was not aware of the upcoming cutoff, I did not have time to apply for graduate school for the upcoming year, either.
It has been 6 months since I have graduated, and I have not been able to find a steady job. I wanted to be an analyst. I start work on Monday assembling H1B visa petitions (described by the employer as brainless and monotonous).
tl;dr: I wasted a year and a half of my life and tens of thousands of dollars because I did not know that the College and the Financial Aid Office had different definitions of "Attempted Hours".