Student Life

Why College Students Should Fill Out the FAFSA Each Year

We cannot bury our heads in the sand for the next few months regarding the FAFSA.

College students should submit the FAFSA each year too!
Why College Students Should Fill Out the FAFSA Each Year
Okay, college students. It’s time to get real for a moment. We may have our heads buried in our textbooks like ostriches in sand, since its midterm season coupled with our various semester lengths. We may be only getting news from our phones and emails instead of sitting and watching the nightly news. We may be gearing up for fall, especially since October is pumpkin spice season. One thing we cannot do is bury our heads in the sand for the next few months regarding the FAFSA. I probably had you thinking I was going to talk about our upcoming election in November, and that is very important for the students in the United States, but so is the FAFSA. The FAFSA is actually really important to know about and to understand; it stands for Free Application for Free Student Aid. Who wouldn’t want to jump at a chance to help pay for college? The FAFSA application for each year opens October 1st, so if you are reading this, the application for the 2021-2022 school year is already open! I strongly encourage you to find several resources for help if this is your first year doing the FAFSA, including your parents, counselors, and there are numerous resources to help you in your fill in the blank journey. The FAFSA is a required yearly application to determine how much student aid you can receive. Several factors determine how much aid you are able to get each year. It’s very important that you do not automatically assume you are eligible or ineligible for any type of federal aid. If last year you might not have qualified for anything, that doesn’t mean you won’t this upcoming year; many families and students have been impacted by COVID-19, and if your income and expenses have drastically changed, it will be even more important that you fill it out again this year and next year. An important question to answer for the FAFSA is if you are a dependent college student or if you are independent. Take me, for example. I worked over the summer, and I pay my own bills, but my parents still graciously pay for some food and gas in addition to helping with rent when I need it. Where does that leave me? According to studentaid.gov, I am classified as a dependent student, since I am not: “at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.” Even if I were financially independent, I don’t meet any of the requirements, and I would still have to file as dependent. If you do meet any of the criteria, I would investigate more with a high school guidance counselor if you are heading into college or visit your college financial aid office. An important result of turning in your completed FAFSA form is you get to know if you are eligible for a few important things, which are termed federal student aid. This can be grants, loans, aid for military or international students, or work study funds. That’s a lot of potential aid you could qualify for! If you are thinking of taking out loans to pay for college, it’s very important that you fill out the FAFSA—loans directly through the Department of Education have a fixed interest rate which you may need to take into consideration after receiving your results from the application submission. If there is only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: complete your form as early as possible! The earlier that you complete the application, the higher your chance of receiving funds! It also will give you an idea of how much aid you can get heading into the school year and what kind if you need to prepare for anything in terms of finances or time for the upcoming year. Studentaid.gov also has a glossary that I referenced for this article, and boy, would it have been helpful when I was trying to do the FAFSA my first year! There is also a handy-dandy infographic to help you with the steps of filling out your application — pictures always are a great tool to help you through something! I hope all of this information has helped you as you head off to fill out your FAFSA!

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