This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 6, dated Nov. 17, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.
We are now in the month of November, and, if you don’t know yet, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been open since Oct. 1, with the deadline being changed to June 30 rather than in March. The FAFSA application is important for students to fill out as soon as possible, considering it determines their eligibility as to how much federal aid can be offered to them. However, the FAFSA application can be complicated to fill out. You may think that completing the federal application once will make the second time easier, but there will always be things that students do not understand about the application.
Being a first-generation college student, I usually have to fill out the FAFSA application by myself without any guidance from my parents or others. This typically involves my own research in learning the ins and outs of the application, which is why it is so important for students to not only have FAFSA workshops on campus, but to also attend them.
As mentioned before, despite having experience filling it out once or twice before, there may be some details students misunderstand when it comes to filling out the application or the application process. Student Loan Hero, a company dedicated to helping students manage their loans, surveyed over 1,000 undergraduate students on their knowledge of the FAFSA application. The results of this survey showed that 85 percent of those students did not even know filling out the FAFSA application would determine their eligibility for free financial aid and not just loans. Additionally, 49 percent did not realize the application also determines eligibility for federal grants, and 78 percent did not know it did the same for federal work-study. Did you also know that filling out the application earlier increases your chances of getting a better federal aid package? If you didn’t, you’re not alone; 41 percent of the undergraduate students in the survey did not know either. In other words, it’s best to complete the FAFSA application as soon as possible if you haven’t done so already.
Having FAFSA workshops where you can learn more about the application process and get help filling out the (somewhat complicated) application can really help students with getting the federal aid they need. Not to mention, there has been a decrease in families that have submitted the FAFSA application, according to the Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College report. The primary reason for this is that families believe they do not qualify for federal aid, with 36 percent being middle-income families and 31 percent being low-income families. Additionally, 34 percent of families state these other reasons for not filling out the FAFSA application: missing the deadline, finding the application too complicated, having a problem with it, or not having the required information.
Thankfully, the Financial Aid Office will be presenting at two virtual workshops (Dec. 8 and Jan. 15) hosted by the Office of Admissions for new students. According to the Financial Aid Office, “[We] will also be hosting a pop-up on-campus for returning students on Dec. 2, at the Campus Center from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. to answer any FAFSA questions as well.” Although, there may be some complications with hosting a virtual workshop and a pop-up during finals as students may find themselves too stressed with completing their finals and finishing their classes to think about completing their FAFSA application. This probably made October an ideal time to host FAFSA workshops for current students, as that was the month when the application opened — then hosting any additional ones later in this semester, or in the next semester, for those who still need to complete it. Despite that, however, at least having a FAFSA workshop is better than none, which is why I encourage students to attend these workshops and the pop-up (time willing, of course) in order to get a better handle on how to navigate through the daunting task that is the FAFSA application.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Jade Schulz / Money