There’s a lot of paperwork to be completed in preparation for the college application and admission process, so who could blame anyone for overlooking one form or another. But not filling out the FAFSA could cost your family thousands of dollars in free money for school.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Families often state many reasons why they don’t complete a FAFSA:
- “We earn too much income to qualify for aid.”
- “A FAFSA is only for government grants and loans.”
- “It’s a complicated process.”
It’s easy to write off the FAFSA before you even get started. However, the fact is, nearly every family may be eligible for aid!
Depending on the number of students you have in college and the school you are attending, some families are eligible for financial aid who have incomes as high as $300,000. Many schools and scholarship programs also require a FAFSA; they use it as a uniform way of evaluating student/family contributions and needs.
And the process has been streamlined and made easier over the past several years. Maybe you remember a kitchen table covered with application forms, tax returns, and more. The entire process can be completed electronically, saving time, postage, and paperwork.
It’s Not Too Late to Complete a FAFSA
The FAFSA form is accepted at the federal level through June of that academic year. So, for instance, if you’re seeking aid for 2017-2018, you can file a FAFSA up until June 30, 2018 (state and school deadlines can vary).
Since schools set their own deadlines, it’s a good idea to also check with your school. Some schools have additional, school-specific financial aid forms to be completed. A school’s financial aid office can tell you more about what kinds of aid you might be eligible for, and what kind of timeline is in place for reviewing SAR information and preparing financial aid award packages.
What You Could Earn
The amount of money available for student financial aid is mind-boggling. Students who graduated in 2017 and didn’t complete a FAFSA left $2.3 billion in play, according to NerdWallet. A recent report showed that nearly half of last June’s high school graduates were eligible for a Pell grant – up to $5,920, according to U.S. Department of Education. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All of that money is set aside for students! The only thing you need to do to be eligible for some of that money is complete a FAFSA.
There’s a lot of change going on right now in the education world. It can be hard to keep track of everything you need to do to prepare for school. And higher education reform is, of course, a great benefit to students. But without students and families doing their part, there are billions of dollars out there, just waiting for someone else to come along and claim it.
It All Adds Up
It’s never too late to file a FAFSA. Even if you didn’t fill it out for your student’s freshman year, you can still do it for next year. The application is straightforward, and many of the data points come directly from a family’s federal income tax returns or year-end financial statements. This form is the only way to qualify for many federal financial aid programs, including grants and loans, and it’s the first step to applying for many school-granted financial aid and scholarship awards. Just because nearly half of graduating high school students might leave billions on the table, there’s no reason you need to, too. In fact, make their loss your gain.