Who Gets Financial Aid For College? Only Parents Who Apply For It
Applying for financial aid can be a challenge and many parents delay the process as long as they can. Some think they need to wait until their taxes have been filed, when in fact an estimate based on your previous year's taxes is completely acceptable. Sometimes parents feel embarrassed to apply for financial aid, even in this uncertain economy. Too many parents do not apply for financial aid because they do not believe they will qualify. Never make this assumption. The easiest way to lose out on financial aid for college is to not apply for it.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the main form used to determine eligibility for federal aid, including Pell Grants and student loans. The majority of parents will fill out the FAFSA application online. It is the first step to getting financial assistance for college. Many student financial aid programs are on a first come, first served basis. The FAFSA is the critical connection between you and your student's future financial aid package.
The key is to complete the entire FAFSA financial aid application and file it no later than the specific deadlines set by colleges and states. If you are unsure about an answer, wait to submit the form; if the answer is zero, put a "0" on the line. File your taxes as early as possible because it is helpful to have that information available. Otherwise, you can estimate the amounts from previous years and correct the amounts on the form later at the corrections page on the FAFSA website.
FAFSA deadlines include federal, state, and college deadlines. Any outside scholarships you apply for may also have a FAFSA requirement and deadline. FAFSA deadlines vary from state to state and from school to school. Some deadlines are as early as mid-January, while others are later.
Parents can even "talk" live online with a customer service representative if they have questions. You can also get additional assistance by calling (800) 4-FED-AID or going to the FAFSA website at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. Applications are accepted beginning in January for the fall semester.
Parents need to avoid making mistakes on the FAFSA form because this will only delay the application from being processed. Some common mistakes that parents make include the following:
1. Not listing all of the colleges to which your student is applying
2. Writing in incorrect tax amounts
3. Not updating your information once your taxes are filed
4. Leaving a question blank
5. Not signing the FAFSA form
Most colleges and universities start sending out admission acceptance letters between January and April. Financial-aid award notices come close behind. Expect a financial-aid award letter to arrive within two to three weeks after an acceptance letter. If you have not heard from a school, it is appropriate to contact the financial aid office and inquire about your financial aid package
and when you can plan on receiving it.
You cannot expect financial aid if you never apply. Many parents are overwhelmed just thinking about college and wondering how they will afford it. For other families, our tough economy has changed the financial situation and security they once had. There is still time for parents to go to the FAFSA website and apply. Give your student the opportunity to receive the financial aid you need to make attending college affordable. Who get financial aid? Only parents who apply for it.
Susie Watts is an educational consultant in Denver, Colorado. She is the founder of College Direction and has been working with students for more than twenty years. She assists with the college search, essays and applications, help with paying for college, and college planning to help students become stronger college applicants. To find out how College Direction can help your student, go to http://www.collegedirection.org.
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