When paying for college, you don’t want to leave any money on the table. Nerdwallet reported that about 52 percent of the class of 2018 was eligible for a Pell Grant, money the government provides to students for college. That means by not completing the FAFSA, each Pell-eligible graduate missed out on an average of $3,908 for college.
For student-athletes the dream is always a full-ride scholarship even though NCAA data shows they just aren’t the norm. Instead, most recruits adjust their sights and aim to create a robust scholarship package by combining athletic scholarship with other opportunities like federal financial aid. And that all begins with your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Getting a realistic expectation of college costs
The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans and work-study funds administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and they’re more borrower-friendly than private loans. The information from your FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is an index number that colleges use when determining how much financial aid you’d receive if you attend their school.
How college coaches use your FAFSA
Your EFC is especially important to college coaches who can offer partial scholarships. Typically, coaches take your EFC into consideration when collaborating with Admissions to build a competitive scholarship package. For example, if your EFC is low—meaning you won’t be expected to contribute to your college funds—they may work to supplement your package with need-based scholarships. But if they find you have a higher EFC, they may try to mix in merit-based scholarships you won’t be required to pay back.
Why every student should fill out the FAFSA
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for federal aid, you should still apply. Most colleges and many private scholarship sponsors require students to submit their FAFSA to be considered for financial aid. Some colleges will even evaluate your FASFA to determine which other kinds of scholarships, like merit-based scholarships, you could qualify for. Not to mention there are programs designed for students who were rejected from federal financial aid. Plus, a college (and college coach) may take your application more seriously when you’ve submitted a FAFSA.
Who should fill out the FAFSA?
All students heading to college in 2020-21 should fill out the FAFSA. Don’t assume your income is too high—you might earn more than expected, especially since it evaluates a variety of factors, including the parent/guardian age and number of children in college.
When should I fill out the FASFA?
The FAFSA opens October 1 for the following school year (2020-21). Families are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible because aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applications are considered on a rolling basis until June 30, 2021, but college deadlines are usually earlier (often February or March). So, check the deadlines for schools on your list to ensure you complete your application on time.
7 steps to successfully completing your FAFSA
For some, filling out the FAFSA can be a frustrating task. We’ve compiled all the information you need to make it easier. Before you begin, check the 7 things you’ll need to fill out your 2020-21 FAFSA form.
Step 1: Create an account/FSA ID
Visit fafsa.ed.gov to create an account. Parents with dependent students are required to create their own, separate FSA ID. Keep in mind: getting an ID can take up to 3 days.
Step 2: Fill out the student demographic section
This just includes basic information. Nothing too tricky!
Step 3: List the schools you’re interested in
You can list up to 10 schools. Reference your target list of schools. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the college will just disregard your FAFSA form. Every applicant must list at least one school when filling out the FAFSA.
Step 4: Complete the dependency status questions
These questions are set up to determine whose financial information you will use. Dependent students will use their parents’ financial information.
Step 5: Fill out the parent demographic section
Now it’s the parents’ turn to fill out their basic information.
Step 6: Provide your financial information
Insider tip: First, see if your income information can be pulled through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This tool was taken down last year after privacy concerns, but new security measures have been added, so luckily, it’s back up. It will automatically pull in pertinent income information into your financial aid form, significantly cutting down the time it takes to complete your application.
Step 7: Review your form carefully, sign and submit
Double check and make sure you sign then submit!
It’s getting easier to complete every year but here’s how you can avoid some common FAFSA mistakes.