There’s a certain kind of energy in the air when fall comes around, especially if you’re a high school senior. It was an exciting time for me as I can imagine it is for you– the prospect of freedom, the culmination of my success in high school, the hustle and bustle when I finally got onto campus. However, getting accepted into college doesn’t necessarily mean you have a way to pay for it.
This doesn’t mean you’re up the creek without a paddle. The FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form is an application for financial aid to help pay costs that come with college, career school, or graduate school. With the application for the 2019-2020 school year opening today, here are some quick points of advice for how to take advantage of this opportunity:
It’s not a waste to apply
I understand that you’re very busy. You might be a rockstar during the final stretch of your high school career: juggling a part-time job, taking advanced level classes, taking charge as team captain, or just even trying to enjoy your senior year. I absolutely know the feeling. However, I have two words to say to that: it’s free. There are literally no fees with the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid (There should be no reason to pull out a credit card during this process, if asked to, please check to see that you are on the official FAFSA website). Not to mention that the FAQs section of the FAFSA website says that filling out the form for the first time takes no longer than an hour on average. So, carve out some time, politely decline an inevitable invite to do something or another, and get started!
FAFSA just got mobile
With young people everso connected to their mobile devices, it is exciting to see that the U.S. Department of Education recently unveiled the My Student Aid app, which will allow you apply on your smartphone. Soon there will be functionality with the IRS data-retrieval tool as you’re applying, so things like your parent’s income or tax filing status will be automatically populate your application. No need to stress about heading to the library or getting on the computer for the FAFSA process.
More aid is out there but you got to be quick
The federal deadline for FAFSA is June 30th, but deadlines for your specific state or college can be sooner. Individual colleges deadlines for FAFSA are often shared with the deadlines to apply which can be early as November for priority admission. States like Missouri and Connecticut have their deadlines in February. This is important to think about as state or county aid programs such as Cal Grants or the Tennessee Promise Scholarship require a complete FAFSA in order to be eligible. State aid is also often distributed on a first come, first served basis. To figure out your state’s deadline, you can visit FAFSA’s tool here. I’d highly encourage folks to get on the ball sooner rather than later to improve your chances of receiving aid.
Apply every year
You gotta keep in mind that the aid you receive from FAFSA applies to that particular school year only. You need to apply and submit your again if you wish to qualify for more aid as you move along in your college career. Mark it down in your planner or put an event in your phone’s calendar to remember. The best part is, after doing it once, it will be a lot easier when you have to do it again.
Hopefully this advice helps give you some peace of mind when it comes to paying for college. FAFSA was the primary gateway that I used to pay for a great deal of my college expenses. It certainly can be for you as well. For more resources, feel free to check out our Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA for help with definitions on some of the terms that will come up as you apply as well as a checklist on what you need to complete the form.