Summer has officially come to a close and fall is in the air. While it proverbially seems like the end of things--the beginning of the annual college financial aid application season has officially begun.
The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, became available on the first of this month for the 2018-19 academic year. The five letter acronym that many prospective students are likely to have heard, but don’t fully understand, is required to have access to the over $100 billion in postsecondary grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Why is FAFSA completion so important? Completing the application is a strong predictor of a high school senior enrolling in postsecondary education. In fact, a high school senior who completes FAFSA is 61% more likely to enroll than his or her peer who does not. Nationally over 1/3 of seniors in 2017 did not complete the FAFSA, according to data from the National College Access Network. The completion rates are even lower in low-income school districts -- where financial aid may be crucial to students enrolling in colleges and universities.
Less than one-half of 1 percent of children from families in the bottom fifth of the income scale attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. And while some schools have shifted their focus to make education more affordable for low-income families, there are still numerous costs associated with schooling that are not covered by tuition.
To get you, or your student prepared to file check out our tips and tricks to make the FAFSA application as effortless as possible. Looking to start the form? Check out The Benefit Bank to file the form for free!
Relax. The form is long. There are more than 100 questions, and some may seem a bit tricky but know that most questions are likely not to apply to your circumstances. Another plus is that parents or guardians can now use their older tax information to fill out the form to pull income information.
File. No matter what your situation -- fill out the form. No matter what your financial situation, like most states, colleges and universities also use the form to award scholarships or grants. For federal student loans, which are usually safer--and cheaper-- than private loans, the FAFSA is required.
Watch. Keep an eye on deadlines. If you are reading this and considering filling out the form soon, then you are already on the right track. While federal grants are not affected by any time constraints, some colleges work on a “first-come, first served” basis so beware.
Expand. Don’t be afraid of new experiences, not checking “interested in work-study” means you might miss out on campus work opportunities with great benefits like tax subsidy for college costs. Who knows maybe you will make some new friends too!
Error-Free-Filing. There is something methodical about completing the form with a pencil and a pad of paper but using an electronic system like The Benefit Bank helps catch errors that might pop up.