As a high school junior, this year is especially important for all of us since this is the last year that we have to prepare for college applications. A big part of the application process is applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or better known as FAFSA. For those of you wondering, “What is the FAFSA?,” FAFSA is a federal application to apply for financial aid for college. According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, in 2018, 72% of high school seniors were granted money through this program. Even better, most high school students are eligible to apply, and it’s free! According to the FAFSA website, studentaid.gov, to be eligible to apply and gain financial aid, you have to be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, a Social Security Number, a high school diploma, be enrolled as a regular student seeking a degree, maintain satisfactory grades, and register with the Selective Service System (males only). You also have to apply online at fafsa.gov.Many 11th graders forget that you can actually start planning for this application right now! You can get an estimate on how much aid you will be granted by completing the FAFSA4caster on the FAFSA website. And from there you can start roughly planning financial plans for college and beyond. As for parents, start the conversation with your junior on their plans for college and financial support, and continue to support their academic career. For both parents and students, start or continue looking at colleges and universities you are interested in and start outlining your financial plan. Consider all options, which can be anything from financial aid and student loans to even splitting tuition costs if possible.Something my family and I have done is establish what colleges I plan on applying to, and my financial situation for each college. It has been a great way to be prepared for whatever may occur, so I don’t freak out later on when it’s time to pay. Discussing this with your family is very beneficial, so have a family meeting to discuss! Searching for scholarships now is also essential to be prepared for whatever your financial situation may be. There are many scholarships right here on Fastweb to look into as well! The FAFSA website also has information on how to avoid identity theft and scholarship scams, so navigating the website is a great way to educate your family and gain more information about FAFSA and scholarships.There are many misconceptions about the FAFSA as well, which may cause you to change your mind about applying. But I emphasize that they are not true! A very common one is that your parents make too much money, so you won’t get anything from filling out the FAFSA form. This is not true; most people can get financial aid! There are many factors that come into play when calculating your aid, so don’t lose hope. Besides, every single penny counts! Another misconception is that your parents must be U.S. citizens for you to qualify for financial aid; when in reality, your eligibility will not be questioned based on your parents’ immigration status. As a matter of fact, the application does require your parents to have a Social Security Number. FAFSA will not take into account your parents citizenship status. Also, many students might believe that only people with high GPA’s or students with the best grades get the most aid, but that is not the case. GPA and grades are only considered when applying to colleges or applying/qualifying for some scholarships. Average grades are more than enough to get you the financial aid you need. In addition, if you live off your own paycheck, meaning you are not dependent on your parents financially, you will have to prove you are independent on your application. It is difficult since the federal government defines an independent student as someone 24 or older, but there are ways you can claim you are financially independent. To find out more, check the FAFSA website or the U.S. Department of Education for more information. Last but not least, the first time you fill out and complete the FAFSA form is not the only time you will need to fill out an application for financial aid for the rest of your college career. Selective schools may require filling out a CSS Profile for the individual school. Deadlines are different for each school, so check your college’s deadlines. Additionally, your FAFSA form needs to be filled out every year. The government wants to know your financial situation, and it changes every year. No matter your financial situation, the FAFSA form is essential to fill out! You will never know how much financial aid you can receive if you don’t try. I wish you luck on your college search, you got this!
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