The reason behind the high costs of college today compared to just a few decades ago is something most of us can’t wrap our heads around. Though wages have been stagnant, college costs are consistently rising. Because of sky-high college tuitions, applying for financial aid is a process many students have to go through every year.
On the bright side, the process of doing so is still free! FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form you complete online to determine whether or not you’re eligible for college financial aid and how much you’re eligible to receive.
Before we jump into the meat of this post, let’s clear up the most common misconception: Financial aid does not mean free money for college.
Financial Aid Packages Are A Combo Pack
Financial aid offers are filled with many different types of “aid” in them. Some of the money can be free money in the form of grants and scholarships. However, loans are typically part of financial aid packages. When loans are included that means you’ll be borrowing money. Which also means you are agreeing to pay it back in the future, whether you graduate or not! You also need to know that if you don’t apply for FAFSA on time, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to get even more money. The loans and grants you receive from the federal government come from one of the categories in the government’s budget. That budgetary category is limited to a certain amount. It’s definitely not an unlimited pot of money! So, the earlier you apply to be considered, the better off you’ll be!
Let’s Talk Deadlines
The deadline for the 2019-2020 FAFSA is at midnight, Central Time, June 30, 2020. This means that if you want to receive any grants, scholarships or loans to help you pay for college before June 2020, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA application ASAP! Every student should attempt to be considered for all forms of need-based financial aid, including state grants, university grants and scholarships. Even if you think your family’s income is too high for aid, you should still complete the FAFSA because you never know! There might be opportunities for funding that you might’ve missed.
At this point in the year, most first year college students have already started their college education, but this information is still relevant and useful if you have yet to complete your FAFSA and/or if you’re transferring to another college.
Transfer Applicants Have Extra Homework
As a transfer student, you will have more to be concerned with than the June 30th deadline. You’ll also need to complete your FAFSA and the CSS Financial Aid profile for the college you’ll be transferring to. The important thing to know is the internal deadline for your new school. If you submit your FAFSA and/or profile AFTER your new college’s internal deadline, you might still receive some grants, but there’s also a chance that you might not. In recent years, some colleges have given grants to late applicants, but there is no guarantee that your college will do so. Some colleges have internal deadlines as early as March or April, even though the general FAFSA deadline is at the end of June. So make sure you have it all squared away by calling your new college to confirm their internal deadlines.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Mistakes within your applications will cause a delay in the whole process. The key here is to ensure you avoid any errors! Take your time when completing your application and do not rush through it! Here’s a list of common errors you want to avoid in both your FAFSA and CSS profile:
- Type your SSN accurately each time
- List your name exactly the way it appears on your Social Security card
- Enter all birth dates accurately including your parents
- Make sure your answers match between the two forms
- Look over your Student Aid Report (SAR) carefully once you submit the FAFSA. (They will list any errors that may have been submitted and indicate how you can correct them)
- Do not make any changes to data you transferred over from the IRS