Apply Early for Student Aid With New FAFSA

photosteve101/Flickr
photosteve101/Flickr

One of the biggest reasons so many students miss out on federal aid is because they assume that they are not eligible.

Although the process can get discouraging at times, each student has a different circumstance, and they shouldn’t rule out the possibility of receiving aid.

Some factors that affect your chances of receiving aid are: having multiple children at school at the same time, the type of college you attend (private vs. public) and whether or not you have assets.

What is the FAFSA?

If you need financial aid to help pay for college you must complete and submit Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka the FAFSA.

FAFSA is the form students fill out to apply for federal grants, loans and work study. FAFSA is administrated by the U.S. Department of Education. They provide more than $150 billion in student aid annually, according to Federal Student Aid website.

Homepage of the fafsa.gov website

This year, the FAFSA application date is three months earlier than the past open date of January 1.

To maximize the amount of aid you can get, fill out the FAFSA today! For the 2017-2018 school year, the FAFSA was available to submit on October 1, 2016.  Remember, some financial aid — such as state aid — is given out first-come, first-served basis so apply now to increase your chances.

The federal deadline for submitting the FAFSA is for the 2017-2018 year is June 30, 2018. However, it is important to note that most schools have their own deadlines by when the FAFSA must be filed to determine the amount of aid they can offer you. These deadlines are called priority deadlines  and are the due dates in which you will be considered for the most amount of money according to the official blog of the US Dept. of Education. These dates are usually around February 1 and March 1. Dates may vary because of the earlier availability of the FAFSA. If you are having trouble finding these deadlines try calling your school’s financial aid office or doing a quick Google search of the school’s dates and deadlines.

State deadlines should also be on your radar. Most are first -come, first -served basis and run out once they reach the capacity of aid they are allowed to disperse. Many states had the policy of “as soon as possible after Jan. 1” however with the earlier launch date, many are changing to “as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2016,” according to the official blog of the US Dept. of Education. This is just another reason why you should get your FAFSA in now. If you are unsure of what your home state deadline is you can check it out here.

Another change for the 2017-2018 FAFSA is it asks for tax information from the previous year rather than having you sign back in and input your tax information from this tax season. For students applying for 2017-2018, tax records and information from 2015 will be considered.

Being proactive about filing financial aid can make the difference between receiving aid from your top choice and not being able to afford your dream school.

 Why you should fill out FAFSA now

There are many benefits of submitting your FAFSA application early.

First:  The earlier you submit, the greater the chance of receiving more state and school aid. Since states have a limited amount of aid to give out, you want to be at the front of the line.

Second: The sooner you apply the sooner the stress from the FAFSA will be over — because we know it’s not the simplest task in the world.  Once you submit your application you will have more time to focus on finishing up applications, applying for scholarships and time to enjoy your senior year. If you are already in college and are applying for the FAFSA, getting it done early will lend you time to focus on your coursework and prevent you from having fights with your parents about it the night before its due. Trust me that is not fun.

Third: If you are a first-time student submitting your FAFSA, don’t procrastinate. One of the myths  about the FAFSA is that submitting earlier will get you an award letter faster from your school. This is false. Getting your application in early gives you a better chance of getting a quicker response with an estimated financial aid package, but does not guarantee you will. Some schools will stick to their original deadlines while others will release award packages earlier. If they do send out letters earlier, this will give you more time to compare the offers from different schools. With the cost of college on the rise, being proactive about filing financial aid can make the difference between receiving aid from your top choice and not being able to afford your dream school.

Fourth: Scholarships, Scholarships, Scholarships. Some scholarships base their aid and recipients off of your FAFSA results. For example, according to Federal Student Aid website, “You can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant—and you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA.” In certain cases, scholarships have early deadlines. Don’t exclude yourself from these scholarships because you procrastinated on your FAFSA application.screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-4-02-59-pm

 

Don’t miss the deadlines!

In order to have the highest chances of getting FREE money for college, get your FAFSA materials in by the deadline if not earlier. If you miss deadlines you take yourself out of the race for money you might not have access to otherwise. Some states/schools do provide aid to people who submit items late, but they are often less amounts so don’t rely on the possibility. Missing the federal deadline at the end of June also means you are unable to submit that years FAFSA.

Moral of the story: don’t miss deadlines because you miss out on FREE money to support your college education.

ALWAYS APPLY

Like your mom tells you to eat your vegetables,  she’s also probably told you that you never know until you try. The same concept applies to financial aid. You may be surprised at the amount you receive if you just apply. (Try).

Apply to the earliest deadline. Don’t procrastinate. Fill out your FAFSA today!

More information about the FAFSA and where I found this information go to: Federal Student Aid website, Homeroom blog, Myths about the FAFSA and Why You Should Fill Out The FAFSA ASAP.

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Rebecca Hankins