It’s not too early to talk about FAFSA

Applications for college and financial aid begin soon

 

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By: Maria Alejandra Pulgar

 

High School Seniors just began classes last week, but they should already be thinking about where they will go to college next fall. The Common Application opened in August 1st, for those looking forward to beginning college in the fall 2023, and there are schools that have a November deadline for students applying for Early Decision or Early Action admissions. 

One part of the process is choosing and applying to a school and being admitted, but the other most important component is how to pay for the institution of higher education of your choice. And that is where being on top of filling out FAFSA early could make a big difference on the amount of financial aid a school offers within their admission package.

FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, and the portal opens October 1st of each year. The earlier a family completes the application, the better the chances of getting more money awarded on their financial aid packages, in the form of federal grants or loans. Scholarships, need-based or merit-based, are offered by the schools or other institutions and may use the information in FAFSA as reference to calculate the amounts awarded, therefore filling out the form out soon is a key component of the college application process.

 

Who qualifies for FAFSA?

FAFSA application is a free process that is done through the site of the US Department of Education www.fafsa.gov

The application is available only for students who are U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, or other non-citizens who have a valid Social Security number. The federal financial aid is not provided for undocumented students or illegal aliens. In those cases, parents should approach the education institution to verify other types of financial assistance or scholarships they may provide.

No matter the financial condition of the families, if they qualify they should always apply to FAFSA. Nobody is too rich or too poor to apply. Most colleges and universities require that students include their FAFSA information with their application.

The CSS College Board Profile, which gives students access to other sources of financial aid in case they do not qualify for federal funds, is another application that needs to be filled out by all students, as several colleges and universities require it along with FAFSA. On their website https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/ can be found the list of all schools that require the CSS application and more details on how to apply. International students should use this profile to apply for financial assistance at their colleges of choice.

 

The application opening date is approaching. Get ready!

Those who fill out the application early (between October and January) can modify it later after filling the taxes for the year. It can also be modified in case the financial situation of the families change in the future.

That is why FAFSA should be submitted every year that a child attends college, beginning in the fall of the year before college freshman year. For example, those who will be college freshmen in September 2023 may begin filling out their FAFSA and CSS applications by October 2022. The date is getting near and there are several documents to collect to apply. Parents need to be on top of supporting their students in this process. In case of doubt always approach the CAP counselor of your child’s school.

Among the documents needed to fill out FAFSA application are:

  • Social Security number (parents and students)
  • Student driver’s license
  • If not a US Citizen, it is required to include the Alien Registration Number
  • Federal tax information for student and parents: form IRS W-2; forms IRS 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ
  • Foreign tax returns from US Territories (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income: child support, interests or veterans’ education benefits.
  • Information on cash, savings, checking account, investments (stocks, bonds, real estate other that homestead, etc.) and other assets belonging to parents.
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Do not get discouraged by the cost of colleges and universities

It is true that pursuing higher education is costly and requires a lot of effort, from the student and their families. However, the upfront cost should not be a reason to discard applying to a college or university. Having FAFSA and CSS forms filled out is a great reference for schools to estimate financial assistance for the students that are offered admission.

The majority of schools have on their websites a net-price cost of attendance calculator, where parents can input the information about their finances and get a reference on what would be de EPC (Estimate Parent Contribution) and which costs can be covered through scholarships, grants, loans or work study assistance. When admitted students are great candidates, the universities guide their parents on the different financial alternatives to make their attendance happen.

The worst mistake would be to shy out of contemplating the possibility of attending college for doubting the capacity of affording the costs and therefore not applying to any school. There are many resources to help cover the costs. The first step to gain access to those resources is filling out FAFSA and CSS applications. Do not miss the deadlines!

 

 

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