The Importance of Completing the FAFSA

The magic date of October 1st is fast approaching.  The cost of sending a student to college is undeniably stunning for most families. Not only is there the cost of tuition, but you also have room and board, books and supplies, student activity fees, health insurance, lab fees, transportation and personal expenses. It goes without saying that, for most families, these expenses will cause a crimp in the monthly household cash flow.

Unfortunately, some students feel like they shouldn’t bother filling out a FAFSA because of some common myths. These include:

  • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
  • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
  • “The form is too hard to fill out.”

However, these concerns are usually unfounded.

If you have not set aside time to complete the FAFSA, I encourage you to make it a priority. Some people think that they have to wait until they have completed their taxes, but this is not true.   FAFSA now looks at prior, prior year.  Waiting can actually result in an insufficient financial aid package, or worse, no financial aid at all. Some families are taking a laid back approach to the FAFSA because they are convinced that they make too much money and therefore, make the false assumption that they won’t qualify. Hopefully no one is waiting for their letter of admission to a college before they start the financial aid process. The truth is that even if you don’t qualify, the FAFSA is a good form to have on record. There are a number of reasons for completing the simple online form:

  • It may make you eligible for a low interest loan
  • It may be required by some institutional merit based scholarships
  • It may be that your fortunes change through the year and having the form on file can help make a difficult time a little easier

Since federal money is disbursed as the applications are approved, it is to your benefit to submit the form as soon as possible. The FAFSA form needs to be accurate so it is best to complete the

FAFSA online, which identifies mistakes and allows you to correct them. Your financial package can be delayed by inaccuracies, which in turn can affect the amount of your financial aid award.

Just a reminder – if you are applying to a private college, check to be sure whether they require the CSS/Profile and/or their own institutional forms. If so, do those forms immediately. Colleges start accepting these forms in the fall. Unlike federal funds that are dispensed by a strict formula, private institutions are able to decide their own formula for how they will disburse the funds they have at their disposal. Each college will use the institutional methodology as they see fit. That is why financial aid packages can differ greatly from one college to next.

After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that will summarize the information you completed on the form, and see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount that a family in your situation should be able to contribute towards a college education.

In summary, The FAFSA is one of THE most important steps in obtaining financial aid, as it is the basis for determining a student’s eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.  The good news is that it is now simpler than ever…. so it’s time to get started!

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