Congratulations, you finally got admitted to the college of your dreams. Then you look at
how much it’s gonna cost to actually go and go, uh, that’s a lot of dough for college.
How am I going to pay for it? It’s not like I have a quarter of a million dollars lying around doing nothing! That’s where considering the costs of college and financial aid comes in. Even though it’s a lot of work just applying to college, it’s also important to consider where you are going to get the money to attend college.
As a first step, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is absolutely critical. Because the FAFSA is a crazy complicated form, there are many myths and misconceptions about the FAFSA. Therefore, it’s important to get a sense of what is FAFSA and how to deal with some of the many potential complications that can arise from trying to correctly fill out the FAFSA. After all, there is the potential to get FREE money for college, and who doesn’t like FREE money?
Question: Do I need to fill out the FAFSA?
Answer: YES, you should fill out the FAFSA regardless of your family circumstances. Many schools use the FAFSA as the starting point for determining financial aid. Even if you are not eligible for need-based aid, you may qualify for non-need-based aid or merit aid, both of which will help cut down on the cost of paying for your college education!
Question: Do I need to fill out the FAFSA every year that I’m in college?
Answer: YES, the FAFSA needs to be filled out every year, so that schools can properly determine the financial aid to give you, since your circumstances may change from year to year.
Question: Is it FREE?
Answer: You DO NOT need money to fill out the FAFSA. It is 100% free to fill out the FAFSA. It is a government application, so make sure to go to the official FAFSA website, which will end in a .gov extension. Anybody asking you to pay to fill out the FAFSA is totally wrong!
Question: What do I need to fill out the FAFSA?
Question: Is my family too rich for me to qualify for any financial aid?
Answer: Your family’s income only matters for need-based aid. It doesn’t matter at all for non-need-based aid. Some financial aid, such as grants, is literally FREE money for your education! Why not take advantage of said FREE money?!?!
Question: When are the deadlines to fill out FAFSA?
Answer: The FAFSA officially opens October 1st of every year and closes on June 30th, the following year. However, many colleges and states have deadlines earlier than that to qualify for financial aid. In addition, since some forms of financial aid are released on a first-in, first-out basis, it is critical to apply early to maximize the amount of potential financial aid you might get. Done early enough, you might have the information to be able to price shop the colleges that accepted you! For California students, March 2nd is the major deadline for many state-related financial aid programs.
Question: What if I make a mistake? How do I make corrections?
Answer: You can make corrections to everything other than Social Security Number and information that is transferred from the IRS via their Data Retrieval Tool. Go to FAFSA.GOV and log in to make corrections to your FAFSA.
Question: Does needing financial aid to afford college hurt my chances of getting admitted to college?
Answer: No, it doesn’t. Admission to the college is based on a number of factors, but your family’s financial circumstances generally do not have a direct impact on admissions. The info graph below summarizes the major criteria colleges consider for admission and the level of influence a student may have over different areas.
Question: What is the Cost of Attendance?
Answer: The Cost of Attendance is one of several components in determining how much money you can get in financial aid. It is basically a number that represents the cost for someone to attend college, consisting of the following items: Tuition, Campus Fees, Books and Supplies, Health Insurance, Room and Board, Meal Plan / Food Expenses, Personal Expenses, and Transportation. Colleges will usually provide an estimate of the cost of attendance. However, said the estimate is likely going to underestimate how much it will cost for you to actually attend.
Question: What is the Expected Family Contribution?
Answer: Expected Family Contribution is a number used to determine how much financial aid a student is eligible for. It is NOT the amount of money a student and their family are expected to pay for college nor is it how much financial aid a student will get. For the nitty-gritty of how this is calculated, see: The EFC Formula
Question: If FAFSA Is the Federal Form for Financial Aid, Does it Have Anything to do with Financial Aid from My College?
Answer: The FAFSA is the starting point for ANY financial aid. Colleges use the information you provide on the FAFSA to figure out how much aid to give you. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, colleges would not have the information needed to determine how much financial aid to give you, provided you are eligible for it.
Question: How many schools can receive my FAFSA info?
Answer: Up to 10 schools can receive your FAFSA information. However, you can change which schools get your information by adding another school, which removes one of the schools that you listed before.
Question: Can I use this money to study abroad?
Answer: Yes, you can use financial aid to study abroad if you meet the aid eligibility requirements.
Question: What types of financial aid are there?
Answer: Financial aid comes in a number of different forms:
Money that does not generally does not need to be repaid
Example: Federal Pell Grant
Money that is borrowed and will need to be repaid with interest after college.
Example: Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan
Cost of Attendance - Expected Family Contribution = Need-Based Aid
Aid is that is based on your family’s financial circumstances.
The student would work part-time to earn money to cover the costs of their education.
Aid that is based on student achievements and is not tied to need
Enlighteens Education Perspective
The college application process is a grueling grind and as part of the process, researching how much it will cost to go to college is something some students figure out too late. It’s important to keep in mind the cost of college and the potential for financial aid when coming up with a college list. As such, working with professional and experienced consultants such as those at Enlighteens Education can be extremely beneficial to creating a solid college list and writing essays that will just wow the admission officers. Combined, our consultants have multi-decades of experience working with students to do college admissions right.
Some of the myths and misconceptions make it so some students potentially lose out on valuable financial aid that could have opened up opportunities that they might not find at another college. While writing those college application essays, don’t forget about the FAFSA and to actually fill it out. Who knows? You might just score big in keeping your debts lower than expected, making post-college life much easier!