FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Among scholarships, student loans, working part-time jobs and traditional college funds, the avenues to lessening the financial burden of earning a degree is numerous.
Though tuition, books, and fees when pursuing a degree can be overwhelming, thankfully we live in a nation where federal financial aid is available for prospective undergraduate and graduate students.
However, this advantage means nothing if you fail to meet the application by the deadline.
Whether you think you’ll be eligible for financial aid or not, you can’t afford not to apply.
According to an article by NerdWallet in 2016, college students missed out on $2.7 billion in free FAFSA College Aid because of incomplete or unsubmitted applications alone—not because their parents made too much money, but because of lack of follow through on behalf of the applicant.
We’re all busy, but again, in today’s economy, one cannot afford to not make claiming this financial advantage, for what we all know can be an incredibly expensive investment, a priority. And all it takes is completing a simple application.
Granted, completing the application is not as easy as ordering something on Amazon—it doesn’t just require your name, number, address, and done.
The FAFSA application does require some homework, gathering of documents, information from the head of your household, and maybe a Google search or two to understand the federal lingo of what’s asked for, but again, it’s an hour of filling out an application that if left undone, could cost you thousands of dollars in financial aid.
Take these four helpful tips when sitting down to fill out your FAFSA application:
1. Carve out an evening with the head of your household to complete the application together
If you’re a dependent of your parents or guardian, make an appointment with them. You’ll need their help in filling out the application. Pick up some pints of ice cream and settle down at the kitchen table after dinner one night and fill out the application in one fell swoop together. Rather than bugging your mom while she’s trying to work or make dinner or relax at the end of her day, do both your parent and yourself the favor and respectfully set an appointment with her.
2. Minimize distractions
Turn off the TV, work in an area of the house where less family members are coming in and out, where people will try to have a conversation with you or you know you’ll be easily tempted to hop on Facebook or watch Netflix. This application is more important than you liking your friend’s new profile picture or, God-forbid, falling into the Buzz Feed wormhole of entertainment. If this takes using the computer at the library or filling out the application at a coffee shop, do it.
3. Make a deadline for yourself
This year’s FAFSA deadline is June 30, 2017. Make a deadline for yourself that gives you some leeway in case something comes up—a family member suddenly is in desperate need of your help while you’re filling out the application, you remember a paper that’s due tomorrow, your cat is stuck in a tree, etc. Anything can happen. Do yourself a favor and set your deadline a few days prior to the government’s just in case.
4. Keep both a digital, backed-up, secure document on your computer or cloud and a hard file for all your important info and documents
You’ve now made it a priority to claim financial aid for your studies every year. Do yourself a favor and keep track of everything you know you’ll need for next year’s application while you’re filling out this year’s. Make photo copies and scan the IDs needed, documents requested from yourself and the head of household, and whatever else you know you’ll need next time. You’ll be thanking yourself a year from now as you won’t have to hunt down this permanent info again.
NerdWallet has an impressive guide for even more resources and advice in filling out your FAFSA that could be a big help!
Let’s set ourselves up to succeed in every area. Pursuing a degree is stressful enough. If there’s financial aid with our names on it, make the most of the privileges our country grants us and complete the application before June 30th.
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