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That Free Financial Aid Seminar May be Just a Worthless Sales Pitch

Mark Kantrowitz

November 18, 2011

Error: The FAFSA form is validated by the US Department of Education.

The correct term is “verification.” Verification is performed by the college financial aid administrators to ensure that the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is accurate. The online FAFSA does include edit checks that detect the most common errors, and certain questions will trigger a data match with the Social Security Administration, Selective Service System, Department of Homeland Security and other federal databases.

Error: Early acceptance is like applying during the junior year in high school.

From context the speaker was talking about early admission, not early acceptance.

Early admission involves applying for admission in early fall, before the regular admission cycle. Early admission deadlines are typically in late October or early November, with notification of admissions decisions in mid-December.

There are two types of early admission programs. Early action is non-binding, while early decision is binding.

Error: You must have your taxes done first before filing the FAFSA.

You do not have to file your federal income tax return before filing the FAFSA. You can file the FAFSA based on your W-2 forms and 1099 statements and the last pay stub of the year. After you have filed your federal income tax returns you will have an opportunity to update the information on the FAFSA.

You should not wait until you’ve filed your income tax returns or have been admitted to file the FAFSA. Some states have very early deadlines for state aid. For example, Connecticut usually has a deadline in mid-February, and there are many states with March deadlines. There are five states that award state grants on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee. Some colleges have a preferred deadline and a regular deadline for applying for financial aid, with a bigger pool of funding available to students who apply by the preferred deadline. So waiting to file the FAFSA may affect the amount and types of financial aid you receive.

Error: All aid is first-come, first-served.

Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, as discussed above, but the majority is not. The Federal Pell Grant, for example, functions like an entitlement, and is awarded throughout the year. So long as you apply before the deadline, you will be considered for the financial aid.


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