FAFSA: The Early Bird Catches the Worm (and more money).

While high school seniors are eagerly awaiting the end of their secondary career, juniors are now beginning to explore possibilities for their tertiary education. Along with finding the “just right” fit that I described in my recent “Goldilocks” article, students and their parents must seriously consider the cost of each potential selection.  College applicants and current college student who seek financial aid need to complete the federal student aid application, known as  the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, abbreviated FAFSA.   According its website, the Office of Federal Student Aid, the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation, ”Provides grants, loans, and work-study funds for college or career school.” Each year, the office distributes $150 million for higher education. The office processes “22 million FAFSA submissions each year . . . delivered to students through more than 6,200 colleges and career schools.”

Students who are not ready to apply for student aid but who who would like to determine the estimated amount they might receive can use the “FAFSA4caster, an early eligibility estimator that can help {students} plan ahead when it comes to paying for college.” (See https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/estimate).

Knowing what lies ahead is critical. According to a recent article in the Atlantic, “Half of American college freshmen ‘seriously underestimate’ their debt and about a quarter of students with federal loans do not even know they have such loans.”  The article goes on to report that a financial aid analyst at Edvisors.com estimated that in the 2007-2008 school year, about 2 million low income college students missed the opportunity for federal grants because they failed to complete the FAFSA.

The Atlantic article also provides some advice for anyone applying for federal aid. Complete the application early. Procrastination costs money!  Amanda Ripley, author of the article maintains, “Those who file the form early in the year typically receive twice as much money as those who file later.  Furthermore, students under the age of 24 must re-file each year to be eligible for grant money. So this caveat is for those entering college as well as those already enrolled.  Don’t delay; put the FAFSA form on the “to do” list and submit it as soon as possible.



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