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If your child is conducting a college search, 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 student’s college preparation, and can be a necessity when it comes to financing a college education.
In spite of the FAFSA’s importance, a federal study found just 65% of students and their families reported completing the FAFSA. Reasons respondents gave for not completing the FAFSA included perceptions they might not qualify for financial aid, the forms and application process seemed too burdensome, and concerns about debt. Sound familiar?
Read on to find out why completing the FAFSA is essential, both as part of the college search process and every year that your student attends college.
The FAFSA is your guide to exactly what kind of funding your student qualifies for: grants, loans, parent loans, and work study. Even if you don’t think your family will need to take advantage of these resources, knowing they’re available is always a good practice. It never hurts to keep your options open.
Some scholarships, like our $20K annual Impact Scholarships, are purely merit-based and awarded upon admission to students who are academically qualified. But many scholarships factor in a student’s financial need when choosing a recipient. In general, 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 and your student a baseline for financing her college education. And if you have funding in place for the fall and spring semesters, completing the current year’s FAFSA may open up aid options for your student in the summer.
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 student’s aid eligibility. That means your family 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 your family might need it.
The FAFSA application is in your student’s name, but completing it together provides her with a financial understanding that will benefit her even after college. Keeping your FAFSA updated has other benefits, too. For instance, it can make a significant difference if your family were to fall into financial hardship. In addition, if you have more than one child, once the first student’s FAFSA is complete, a hyperlink appears and allows you to transfer your family’s information into another child’s FAFSA. The FAFSA information can also be used if your student chooses to apply to graduate school.
Having your student’s FAFSA up-to-date will help you be prepared should your family need additional funding. Some years, it may make all the difference. Keeping it current saves you time because 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 your student needs 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 your family. When it’s all said and done, you can feel more secure knowing you’ve taken a proactive step in helping equip your student for her education, career, and future.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in September 2018 and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.Visit Meredith.