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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FAFSA - FOR EVERYONE

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FAFSA - FOR EVERYONEThe magic date of January 1st has come and gone. No one turned into a pumpkin, but with each day into the month the pumpkin patch will get picked clean. The cost of sending a student to college is unquestionably staggering for most families. Not only is there tuition, but also room and board, books and supplies, student activity fees, health insurance, lab fees, transportation, personal expenses, and the ever-present incidentals including Friday night pizza. It goes without saying that for most families these expenses undoubtedly will cause a crimp in the monthly household cash flow.

If you have not begun the completion of the FAFSA I encourage everyone – except maybe anyone who just inherited a fortune -- to make it a priority. Some people think that they have to wait until they have completed their taxes, but this not true. Waiting can actually result in an inadequate financial aid package or worse, none at all. Some families are taking a laid back approach to the FAFSA because they are convinced that they make too much money and therefore, make the false assumption that they won’t qualify. Hopefully no one is waiting for their letter of admission to a college before they start the financial aid process. That will be way too late. The truth is that even if you don’t qualify, the FAFSA is a good form to have on record. There are a number of arguments for completing the form:
1. It may make you eligible for a low interest loan,
2. It may be required by some merit scholarships,
3. It may be necessary in order to borrow money so that payments can be spread over a longer time period,
4. It may be that your fortunes change through the year and having the form on file can help make a difficult time a little easier,
5. The last reason is that the worst that can happen is that you get turned down. Oh, well….

Since federal money is dispersed as the applications are approved it is to your benefit to submit the form as soon as possible. A date to shoot for is February 1st. The FAFSA form encourages participants to be obsessively accurate or complete the FAFSA online so that any mistakes are identified. Your financial package can be delayed by inaccuracies, which in turn can affect the amount of your award.

Just a reminder, if you are applying to a private college check to be sure whether they require the CSS/Profile and/or their own institutional forms. If so, do those forms immediately. Colleges start accepting these forms in the fall. Unlike federal funds that are dispensed by a strict formula, colleges are able to decide their own formula for how they will disperse the funds they have at their disposal. Each college will use the institutional methodology as they see fit. That is why financial aid packages can differ from college to college.
You may think that you know what your need is and whether you would qualify, but the truth is you should leave that up to the experts and maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants