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Why is it a Good Idea to Fill Out a FAFSA?

July 19, 2019 | Louis Tully


 

To be clear, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not an application for a loan, which needs to be paid back. On the contrary, itís financial aid thatís offered to qualifying persons in the form of scholarships, and/or federal grants. Active students who maintain a certain GPA level (usually a 2.0 - 2.5 GPA or higher) are generally not required to pay back this type of aid. If youíre a college student struggling to pay for classes, the FAFSA should be your first choice for obtaining the financial aid you need.

Don't think youíll qualify? Think again. A large majority of students who don't submit their FAFSA are missing out on valuable funding that they qualify for! In other words, it doesnít pay to skip on the FAFSA. Need more reason to apply? A 2018 study found that over $2.6 billion in financial aid still remained untouched after grants and scholarships were disbursed for the 2018ñ19 school year. Taking just a few moments of your time to fill out the FAFSA could leave you claiming some of that cash for yourself!

Filling out the application is easy and fast. Just think, 30 minutes in front of the computer could lead to thousands in cash for classes, books, supplies and anything else you might need to get through the semester. Worth it? You bet it is! Likewise, not filling out the FAFSA application can only hurt you. Classes and textbooks arenít cheap and by not filling out the FAFSA, youíre automatically volunteering to pay the max out of pocket, which could incidentally put a sizable crack in your finances. You may even look into an installment loan, but why?So how do you fill out a FAFSA? Hereís a quick guide to help:

Gather your documents

The whole purpose of the FAFSA application is to obtain an accurate snapshot of you and your familyís financial status. To do this, youíre going to need to provide some info that can only be found on certain documents. To save time, be sure you gather all the following documents before beginning the application:

  • Your driverís license (or a state-issued I.D.)
  • Your social security card.
  • Your tax return from the previous year.
  • Recent bank statements and any asset records you might have.
  • Records of untaxed income such as child support, disability benefits, and health savings accounts.
  • The code for each school you want to apply to. You can find them here.

 


 

Fill out the application

The great thing about the FAFSA is that you only have to fill it out once. Not only that, but youíre asked to create a login PIN so you can revisit your application and make changes at any time. Then, you can send off your application to any college institution of your choice. In fact, the FAFSA website allows you to apply to up to 10 colleges for free.

Even if you don't think youíre the right candidate for aid, go ahead and apply anyway! In this instance, it doesnít hurt to throw your hat in the ring. Many people totally qualify for financial aid and don't even know it. The things, the FAFSA doesnít just look at how much you make, it looks at how much your parents make too. And even if you don't qualify for a grant, you could always use your FAFSA (thatís already ready to go) to apply for affordable student loans. The point is, filling out the FAFSA can only help you. Itís easy to do, takes very little time, and it can only benefit you. What have you got to lose?

Increase your chances of eligible

So you've decided to go ahead and give this whole FAFSA thing a go; that's great! But keep in mind that while it never hurts to fill out the FAFSA, it also doesnít hurt to take a few extra steps to increase your chances of getting aid. Here are a few steps to help you do just that:

  • Empty your bank account: If you have money in savings, temporarily pulling it out can only help your eligibility. The FAFSA looks at ALL of your financials; including what you have in savings.
  • Write a letter: If feel so inclined, you should attach a brief, yet informative letter to your application explaining any changes to your financial situation that may not be reflected on official documents just yet. See, colleges don't just look at the numbers, they look at the letters too. Pun intended?
  • Negotiate: In the event that the college you applied to responded with a decision that doesnít quite gel with your plans, you could always give them a little push back by making your case. Feel free to contact the collegeís financial aid department and politely ask for the steps to appeal. Remember, though you may be upset with their decision, it doesnít pay to let it upset your day; or theirs for that matter. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and take the next step. For stuff like this, a little patience goes a long way.

 


Look at other funding options

If a grant or a scholarship just isnít in the books for you this semester, don't sweat it. There are plenty of other financial relief options out there. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Taking out a personal loan: Personal loans are a great way to get the money you need when cash is light. Rates are low, terms are flexible, and if you have good credit, thereís plenty of money available.
  • Making a supplementary income online: The internet is a wonderful thing. With it, you can apply for college, go to class, and even make the money you need to pay for your textbooks all in one place.
  • Ask friends or family: When all else fails, ask your family or your friends. While there's no guarantee youíll get the help you need from them, it doesn't hurt to ask for it. Youíd be surprised to find how close help really is when you speak up and it answers your call.