It’s Financial Aid Season and the FAFSA Priority Deadline is March 1st!
If you are not independently wealthy with your own bank account full of unlimited cash on hand, then this post is for you. Many students make the mistake of thinking only low-income students should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). These are the same students who miss out on opportunities for receiving money for college.
The FAFSA is first and foremost used as a way to determine your EFC or estimated family contribution, which means the minimum that you are expected to pay based on your or your parents’ income. The EFC is used by some colleges and universities to decide which students to give scholarships and grants to. So, even if you think that you will not be receiving financial aid from the government, you should still fill out and submit the FAFSA to be considered for other forms of student aid. The FAFSA is free and there is no drawback to filling it out, so just apply. You may be surprised to find out that you are eligible for money for college!
Why apply by March 1st every year?Because the financial aid given out by the government is on a first come first served basis. Although this date is not the final deadline, it is the priority deadline. After this date, it is increasingly less likely that all of the funding you are eligible for will be available. You may be thinking that it is better to wait until your parents complete their taxes. Don’t wait! Simply use last year’s tax forms to submit the FAFSA by March 1st. This way you will have met the priority deadline. Then, after your parents file their most recent taxes, you can update your FAFSA application and the EFC will adjust accordingly.
For two short videos on 1) how to fill out the FAFSA and 2) common mistakes to avoid, go to Resources and look under Financial Aid Links.
For more information and great tips on understanding the financial aid part of the college application process, read “How Not to Blow It With Financial Aid: Common mistakes parents and students make when seeking help with college costs” from the Wall Street Journal.
For information on how to get financial aid if your parents are not willing to help you financially or with completing the FAFSA, read “What can you do if your parents refuse to help?”
Helpful Tip: Have the tax form handy as a reference when completing the FAFSA because it prompts you to fill out information based on the tax form in an attempt to make the process easier.
Warning: Be sure to go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to complete the application. There are a lot of companies and scammers with websites pretending to be the FAFSA. If the website you go to does not end with “.gov” then it is not a government website! You should never pay anyone to complete this application because it is a free application, and there are many free resources to receive help including on the FAFSA website.