Regardless of your financial level, if you are planning on going to college, you should be filling the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA opened their application on October 1st, and if you haven’t done it yet, make this your top priority. It can be a tedious and intimidating process, but don’t put it off! To make sure you are getting all the financial aid possible, here are five FAFSA pitfalls you should avoid.
Not Completing the FAFSA
The biggest mistake you can make is skipping the FAFSA altogether. Some students might think that FAFSA is only there for students with pressing financial needs, but that isn’t true. While income is one of the factors used to determine the amount of aid you receive, the number of children in a family and how many are enrolled in college at the same time is also considered.
According to a survey done by the National College Access Network, only 61 percent of high school students file a FAFSA. That number is even less with low-income students. That means that more than $24 billion in state, federal, and institutional aid is going unused. By spending a few hours filling out the FAFSA, you can help make college more affordable.
Completing the Wrong Form
The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. You should never have to pay or put in credit card details on the official government site. In addition, make sure you are completing the form for the correct year. Even if you are currently enrolled in high school for the 2018-2019 school year, make sure you are selecting the form for the 2019-2020 year. Otherwise, you won’t qualify for financial aid, regardless of whether or not you filled out everything correctly.
Waiting Too Long
By not acting now, you could be missing out on aid from organizations that give out scholarships. Many times, the money is doled out on a “first come, first serve” system, so if you wait too long, it could be gone.
Many organizations that give out financial aid tend to have tighter deadlines, so if you file by December, you have a better chance of getting more significant scholarships from various foundations, agencies, or schools. Some state agencies have winter deadlines, so check the FAFSA deadline list found on the US Department of Education.
Leaving Out Schools
If you have started to fill out the FAFSA form, you might have noticed that you can only add 10 schools on the application. Once you have received your Student Aid Report (SAR), you can send all the information to more schools. It is important to note that any schools codes you add will replace one of the school codes already listed. Once you make that change, any college removed from the list does not have automatic access to any new information you provide after you removed that college. Your information will not be deleted from the college’s system.
The application process can be long and difficult for those who are filing for the first time. Completing the FAFSA can have an impact on whether or not you stay enrolled in college. According to the NCAN, high school graduates who file the FAFSA are 63% more likely to enroll in college than graduates who don’t fill it out.
Spend a weekend dedicated to completing the FAFSA to make college more affordable, and pave your path to college.