The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an excellent tool for inbound college students.
The FAFSA has become one of the most popular sources for new college students looking for financial aid, and for good reason. Financial aid is critical for most college students, and the FAFSA is an easily available, one-time application that can open the doors to thousands of dollars’ worth of federal sources of financial aid.
Before you apply, or even consider applying, take note of these five application tips:
1. Apply no matter what. Even if you think you won’t qualify for any sources of financial aid, apply anyway. It doesn’t take long, it’s free, and you can qualify for some form of financial aid unless your household earns more than $180,000.
2. File as early as possible. The FAFSA is commonly procrastinated, but the earlier you file the better. Many colleges and states award aid on a first-come, first-serve policy, plus the longer you wait, the more pressure you’ll face.
3. Fill out every field. It will take some extra time and effort, but make sure you fill out the forms completely. If you’re missing any information, you could face a lengthy and complicated follow-up period, and nobody wants that.
4. Consider adding a supplementary letter. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as a job change or an unexpected recent expenditure, don’t be afraid to attach an explanatory letter. Every bit could help your chances of getting aid.
5. Be honest. It might be tempting to get a better range of financial aid options, but don’t lie about any of your income or assets on the FAFSA. Doing so is considered fraud, and is punishable by heavy fines and prison time.
Don’t sweat the FAFSA—it seems intimidating, but if you go about it with a level head, it’s really not so bad. Get it over with early, and open the door to thousands of dollars of financial aid.