December 30, 2010
Not only is it the start of the New Year, January 1 also marks the first day college-bound students and their parents can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2011-2012 academic year.
FAFSA, a standardized application used to determine eligibility for government financial aid, is an easier process to complete this year, WNCF reported. The new FAFSA form has fewer questions to answer and a simplified online process, allowing students and their parents to fill out the application with greater ease.
"We encourage students and parents to complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov because it contains instructions, help features, and built-in edits to reduce applicant error," said Karen Misjak, Executive Director of the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. "It is also processed faster than the paper version, which can be an important factor when meeting financial aid deadlines."
As for application tips, it is recommended that applicants file the FAFSA regardless of their financial situation. Oftentimes filing the FAFSA is a prerequisite to be considered for institutional financial aid and federal Stafford loans; furthermore, completing the FAFSA does not obligate a student to accept any of the aid offered. In addition, experts warn against paying to file the FAFSA through third party sources because it is available for free on the website. It is also important to meet college and state deadlines because many states have a FAFSA filing deadline for government-funded scholarships, grants and work study opportunities.
"Most families are eligible for some form of financial aid, but they need to apply early to meet the priority deadlines associated with different programs," Misjak said.
Lee Bierber, an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, NC, says that common mistakes on the FAFSA form include using nicknames instead of legal names, leaving fields blank and not signing the form before filing the application, The Charlotte Observer noted.
As the cost of attending college rises, officials say it is becoming even more important for students to seek out sources of free financial aid that are easily accessible, Red, White, And Blue Press reported. Student loan debt continues to be a problem for many students who rely on borrowing to fund their education. Certain groups and individuals, like minorities, military members and single mothers, have the opportunity to pursue scholarships which may allow them to pay tuition and fees in their entirety. Moreover, though FAFSA is a clear choice when applying to colleges, students should also look to find other sources of financial assistance to cover educational costs.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"College Scholarship And Grant Financial Aid Assistance For Tuition--How do Students Seek out Free Aid Sources?" rwbpress.com, December 29, 2010, Alex Strobel
"FASFA Tips for Students in the New Year," wncftv.com, December 27, 2010
"How to avoid mistakes on financial aid application," charlotteobserver.com, December 21, 2010, Lee Bierer