On October 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available for students to fill out for the 2021 – 2022 academic year. For students hoping to pay for college with financial aid, it is the document to fill out. This year, the FAFSA carries a lot more weight to it than in years’ past because of – you guessed it, the Coronavirus. Amidst the global pandemic, parents and students alike have lost jobs. Savings or assets have been greatly reduced or sold off in order to manage spending. More Americans are collecting unemployment benefits than ever. Looking for more COVID-19 student-impact information? Find it here.However, none of this will be reflected on a student’s FAFSA application. Which is crazy, right? But there is a logical explanation. The FAFSA asks for income and other financial information from the prior year. That means that the FAFSA will be collecting data points from 2019, the year we were not living through a pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. Naturally, many applications will reflect financial circumstances that do not accurately line up with the reality that students and their families are facing as they prepare for the next academic school year. According to a survey from Discover Student Loans, 48% of parents lost income as a result of the pandemic, and 44% stated that they couldn’t afford as much for college as they had originally intended.Furthermore, Discover Student Loans found that 26% of parents say they will be asking for a professional judgment on their financial aid package. With that, FAFSA applicants need to know how to navigate the FAFSA and post-application process.Families need to prepare for every “what if,” and the best way to do that is to fill out the FAFSA. Having the form on file at the federal and state levels as well as at the college you plan to attend will make it easier to pull up in the event your need for aid must be reassessed.
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