Thanks to changes in the process, students were able to begin filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October 1 this year. This date is two months earlier than the traditional December 1 application launch date. The effort to expand accessibility aims to tap into uncharted territory of about two million low income students who don’t apply for FAFSA each year.
While FAFSA is the key to unlocking college aid, there are many misconceptions that stop students from submitting the online form. According to Kevin Fudge of American Student Assistance, the first step is for students to submit their FAFSA to all of the schools they are applying to, “if you don’t have anything on file, the college can’t give you any aid.” The main issue is communication – many students and parents are misinformed about FAFSA and how the process works, “nearly half of all of those who didn’t file the FAFSA say they thought they were ineligible.” By pushing up the FAFSA launch date for applicants, parents and students will have a better idea of the net price for college and more time for financial planning.
There are many tools available to help students transition from high school to college. American Council on Education’s American College Application Campaign is collaborating with ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning to assist high school students in their journey to college (follow along and share your story on Twitter with #whyapply). This assistance includes navigating them through the college application process and the many other vital tasks that follow. Our friends at Better Make Room have developed the Up Next tool, that sends out helpful reminders and tips to help keep students on track – including reminders for college prep action items such as when to begin conducting college searches and registering for college admissions tests (like the ACT), and when to submit college applications and the FAFSA.
Here are a few links to websites and tools that provide insight into the FAFSA process:
And don’t forget, FAFSA is free. Always check the URL before filling out your application and make sure you are on the secure government site to avoid fraud or identity theft. The official FAFSA site is: https://fafsa.ed.gov/