We’re in the midst of college applications and financial aid forms here. If you live in the U.S. and have a high school senior (or will shortly) or have a member of your family who’d like to attend college, I’m encouraging you to fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA) today.
According to all the books, research, and reading we’ve done, there’s a theme: a significant percentage of families, with college bound seniors, do not fill out the FAFSA. This is a big mistake and I’ll tell you why, but first a little background.
We have a high school senior (our first) who is currently going through the college application and “how to afford it” process. The FAFSA (as the name states) is the FREE application for Federal Student Aid. It’s called that because the U.S. government established it to formalize the eligibility and process for distributing federal college aid.
While we did know what the FAFSA was, there was one main thing we didn’t know. Just like other government initiated programs (think Social Security numbers), while they were developed for a particular purpose, they have become useful for other purposes.
What we discovered is that while it is definitely required for any “need” based assistance, many, if not most, schools also require you to fill it out the FAFSA to be eligible for any of their scholarships. These include merit based scholarships, leadership scholarships, and many others. The FAFSA is not just for the “need” based aid. This is a pretty big deal.
Another point to note is that any income level cut offs for “need” based assistance (which by the way, also includes student loans, not just federal grants) are somewhat ambiguous. You may benefit even though you might not initially think you would.
Bottom line, take the time to fill it out – today (you basically need all the info you’re going to need to do your taxes anyway). For the time it takes to fill it out, it can’t hurt and it may be a requirement, for scholarships, at your student’s college choice. And, it’s free. Don’t get tricked by the many websites out there who require you to pay to fill it out.
Did you fill out the FAFSA already? Is it on your radar for the future?
Go Gingham related links:
More related links:
- Here’s the link to the FAFSA – and it’s free! But, first, you and your student will also need a PIN. Here’s the link to get the PIN for the FAFSA.
- Julie, The Family CEO and her daughter, have written about paying for college
- Appealing to a College for More Financial Aid – from the New York Times