BY LINDSEY CONGER*
As colleges get more expensive each year, students rely more frequently on financial aid to help offsets the costs of education. However, many students are making simple mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars in grants or scholarship money each year. Here are five tips to help you get the most financial aid possible.
1. Fill Out The FAFSA
One of the easiest ways to get financial aid for college is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While some students mistakenly believe that the FAFSA or CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile is only for students with extreme financial needs, this is false. All students, regardless of their economic background, should fill out the FAFSA. This application not only takes into account the income level but also the number of children in the family and how many are enrolled in college simultaneously.
Each year, more than $24 billion in state, federal and institutional aid goes unclaimed because people do not fill out the FAFSA. While the FAFSA can be a bit tedious, it is well worth the few hours it takes to complete.
2. Submit The FAFSA Now
The FAFSA application opens on October 1, and it is beneficial to you to fill it out as soon as it opens. Many organizations that gave out larger financial packages will have early deadlines, often before the new year.
Many of these organizations operate on a “first-come, first-serve” system, and by applying early, you give yourself the best chance to earn more financial aid. You can find the full list of FAFSA deadlines on the US Department of Education’s website.
3. Complete The Right Form
Unfortunately, some people have created look-a-like websites to trick people into putting in their financial data or credit card information. Before filling out the form, check to ensure you are on fafsa.gov, which is the only official FAFSA website.
Make sure you are filling for the correct year. For example, if you are planning on enrolling in college for the 2020-2021 year, make sure you are selecting the form for that year. Filling out the form ensures you get all the financial aid you are entitled to for that school year.
4. Add ALL Your Schools
One of the biggest mistakes students make is not adding in all their schools to the FAFSA form. Initially, you can only add 10, but after you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), you can send the FAFSA information to all the schools. Even if you replace another school’s code with another one, it will never delete your financial information from that university’s system.
5. Finish it!
The FAFSA takes time to do, but it is well worth the struggle. In fact, a study by the NCAN (National College Access Network), found that seniors who finish the FAFSA are 63% more likely to enroll in a university than students who don’t complete the form.
Spend a few days completing the FAFSA! While it can be a complicated process, it makes college more affordable and is one of the necessary steps you should take when preparing for college.
*Lindsey Conger is a college counselor for MoonPrep.