FAFSA helps students with college funds

Kirstin Jett ‘14
Copy Editor

 

 

Seniors received the blood red notice from the Counseling Office in the beginning of January; the intimidating handout reminded them to start the FAFSA process and be as accurate and precise as possible. But what is FAFSA exactly? Why is it so important? Who does it benefit? Should seniors rush to complete it or take their time?
FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” So if students are looking for federal assistance to pay for college, they must complete the FAFSA by the deadline. The application opened January 1.
Unfortunately, federal and college FAFSA deadlines are not the same. According to FAFSAonline.com, federal online applications must be submitted by midnight Central Daylight Time, June 30, 2014. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by midnight Central Daylight Time, September 15, 2014.
Each college, on the other hand, may have a different deadline. Check with the college you are interested in. Seniors should also check with their selected college about their definition of an application deadline, whether it is the date they receive your FAFSA or the date the FAFSA is processed.
Some states even use FAFSA to determine whether or not to give students aid. When a student begins to fill out the FAFSA, he/she will be asked for personal information, as well as their parents’. Because it requires parents’ income, financial information, current tax information and assets, students will find that completing the application can be either a collaborative effort or simply the parents completing it on their own.
“I wish I knew I was not supposed to do it myself,” Ashlee VanMassenhove ‘14 said.
The application also asks about family size, family members that attended college, and the degree levels of those that did. In the end, the FAFSA calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and it is what a family is expected to contribute to educational costs for the given year; in other words, it determines if a student is eligible for grants, loans, and work study programs.
According to CollegeData, a lot of students worry that their grades are not good enough to qualify for financial aid. But the majority of aid is based on family financial need rather than grades. Students also worry that a large portion of aid is designated to a particular ethnicity; but the FAFSA does not ask students to provide that kind of information. Keep in mind that in college, students must maintain satisfactory grades in order to continue to receive federal aid.
CollegeData also says that students believe that those whose parents have a large income or who have a large college savings won’t receive much aid. But the amount of aid a person receives cannot be predicted. You won’t know how much you receive until you receive it. FAFSA takes into account the age of your parents, the number of siblings you have, and whether or not your siblings are in college.
“Even if you don’t think you need to apply for FAFSA, it is still a good idea if you do because you never know how much money you can get,” Michaelann Brasgalla ’14 said. “You could also acquire unexpected expenses during college, so you may need the extra money.”