College is expensive. Like crazy expensive. Like, why is it so expensive and why does it vary in price across the country, across the globe if it’s all essentially the same product? WHY DO WE HAVE TO PAY FOR COLLEGE AT ALL, EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT.
Anyway, until we can get to a place in society where we can have free college (I doubt it, humanity is so invested in making things so hard for themselves) in America we have Financial Aid. Or what passes for Financial Aid. Really, it’s just about how long you’re willing to have to pay back the government and if you’re fine paying more than what you borrowed in the first place (damn interest).
Filing for Financial Aid is its own nightmare, but here are some tips to try and make it easier and hopefully get you the most free money possible with the least amount of debt.
1. File On Time
This might seem obvious, but apparently it needs reminding. It’s important that you file on time in order to be considered for the most scholarships possible. Yes FAFSA isn’t all loans and neverending debt. So making sure that you turn it in on time is probably the most important thing that you can do if you want to escape crushing repayments once you’ve graduated.
2. Import with the IRS Retrieval Tool
What’s nice about this little feature when you’re filing is that if you and/or your parents filed taxes the previous year, it will pull the info straight from the IRS. No more wondering if you’re entering everything right because they’ll fill it in for you! This was a real game changer, it made life so much easier. That being said…
3. Double Check EVERYTHING
YOU CAN’T TRUST TECHNOLOGY, THAT’S WHAT THE TERMINATOR TAUGHT US. All technology is SkyNet, so make sure that you are double, triple, quadruple checking everything it’s filling in. Even your name. ESPECIALLY your name. You’re one autocorrect away from giving up that beautiful scholarship money for loans. Don’t let that happen to you.
4. Keep All Of Your Documents In One Place
All of that double checking you’re going to be doing will be a lot easier if all of your documents are in one place. FAFSA Filing typically opens on October 1st for the next year, so some random day before that make sure that you have everything ready to go. If you need anything from your parents tell them ahead of time so that you aren’t scrambling behind them at the last minute.
5. File Even If You Think You Won’t Need It
Not sure if you’re going to college in the fall? FILE ANYWAY. I really can’t stress enough the importance of filing even if you’re undecided. You don’t want to decide last minute and boom the deadline has come and gone. Don’t wait for admission decisions either. FAFSA lets you send your info to 10 schools, so just send them everywhere. Be the Oprah of your FAFSA. YOU GET A FAFSA, YOU GET A FAFSA, EVERYONE GETS A FAFSAAAAAA.
6. Contact Your School For Additional Forms
Some schools will require additional forms. Personally I think it’s just to make life harder but that’s college for you. So be sure to email or call their financial aid office to make sure that they have everything that they need from you.
7. Check State Deadlines
Your state might have a different deadline for some financial aid that they offer. The federal deadline is in March, but remember, you want all of the free money you can get. So if your state has an earlier deadline, then that is your new deadline.
8. Watch Videos
Even with the pre-filling tools and nifty articles like this one, filing for financial aid can be confusing. I recommend heading over to good old Youtube and watching some videos on the matter. If you’re more of a visual learner then this will be much easier all around. It also helps to just be able to watch someone else do it to reassure yourself that you didn’t mess up.
9. Ask Teachers and Counselors
Make use of your teachers and counselors! That’s why they’re paid the little bucks. Counselors are just college help machines, they have the answers to all of your college questions. Book an appointment and come with all of your materials. Teachers can help too, they were students once themselves and they’re no stranger to the process given they’re still around academia, but they’ve also got classes to teach. So your best bet is to go to the counselors first, and teachers to clear anything up any questions that might crop up but don’t warrant a trip to the counselors office.
10. Ask Family Members
If you have people that have gone to college in your family ask them too! They’ll be able to give you more attention and time than the faculty at school since there’s only one of you. They might know about scholarships that you can apply for too! It’s also just more encouraging when you have someone who know or is going through the same thing.
11. Sign Up For Your FAFSA Account Early
Early bird gets the worm and all that. You’re going to need an FSA ID in order to begin filling out and then submit your FAFSA. I recommend doing it early just in case the servers crash or slow down from everyone trying to do it all at once when the filing period starts.
12. Go Over Student Aid Report
The student aid report is what tells you how much financial aid you and/or your family are eligible for and how much you’ll have to contribute. So make sure everything on it is correct. It will also list the schools that will be receiving a copy of your FAFSA, so make sure that’s correct as well.
13. Do Your Research
Filing your FAFSA is important, but don’t only rely on that for financial aid. Look into scholarships available at the college you’ll be attending, ones offered locally, everywhere.
14. Keep Your PIN In A Safe Place
Your PIN is how you sign your FAFSA. Make sure you keep it in a safe place so that you don’t forget it.
15. Make Sure You Know When To Fill In Your Info Vs. Parents’
Unless you’re emancipated, it’s likely that you’ll have to enter your parents’ tax information as well as your own. Make sure that you’re entering the correct information when prompted. When it’s time to enter your parents’ info it should clearly state ‘Parent’ whereas for your info it will say ‘Your’. You don’t want to get that info mixed up, that would be bad.
What are some of your Financial Aid tips? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image via Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/425660602283958232/
I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!