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Why You Should Always Fill Out the FAFSA

Posted by: Kevin Michaelsen, Director of Financial Assistance Get Free College Essay Tips
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A Meredith student standing in front of a poster presenting her research to another student

Throughout your college search process, you may have seen the acronym FAFSA tossed around quite a bit. FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a crucial part of your college preparation, and can be a necessity when it comes to financing your college education. While you may already know it’s important, there are more reasons to fill it out than you probably realize.

Know Your Options

The FAFSA is ultimately your guide to exactly what kind of funding you qualify for: grants, loans, parent loans, and work study. Even if you don’t believe you’ll need to take advantage of these resources, knowing that they’re available is always a good practice. It never hurts to keep your options open. Not to mention, certain scholarships factor in a student’s financial need when choosing a recipient. The FAFSA is how college financial aid offices determine whether a student qualifies for some types of scholarships, and all types of need-based federal, state, and college grants. Filling out the FAFSA gives you a baseline for financing your college education. If you have funding in place for the fall and spring semesters, completing the current year’s FAFSA may open up aid options for you in the summer.

You Could Be Missing Out

Your family’s financial information changes each year. If you don’t keep your FAFSA updated, your college will not be able to determine your aid eligibility. That means you might miss out on new or extra federal, state, or institutional funding from year to year. You don’t want to pass up extra assistance. You never know when you might need it.

Save Time and Plan for the Future

The FAFSA application is in your name as the student, but helping your parent(s) complete it provides you with a financial understanding that will benefit you even after college. Keeping your FAFSA updated has other benefits. For instance, it can make a significant difference if your family were to fall into financial hardship. In addition, once the first child’s FAFSA is complete, a hyperlink appears and allows you to transfer the parents’ information into another child’s FAFSA. And if you don’t have siblings, your FAFSA information can also be used if you choose to apply to graduate school.

Having your FAFSA up-to-date will help you be prepared should you need additional funding. Some years, it may make all the difference. Keeping it current saves you time – surprisingly, the more you do it, the less time it takes. In fact, you can transfer information from one year’s FAFSA to another so you don’t have to re-enter it.   

Even if you don’t think you need financial assistance, you don’t lose anything by filling out the FAFSA, and you’ll gain a sense of security and a better understanding of what assistance may be available to you. While forms and paperwork are not always exciting, when it’s all said and done, you can feel a sense of accomplishment: you’ve taken a proactive step in preparing for your education, career, and future.

Contact the Office of Financial Aid

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