FAFSA may be one of the most important acronyms high school seniors will hear in the months before heading off to college. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of a number of important tools to assist students when it comes to paying for college.
Financial aid is an incredibly important resource for students entering college. Scholarships, loans, and grants are designed for students to take full advantage of and are made available so more students can fulfill their dreams and attend college after high school.
According to finaid.org, everyone should apply for financial aid. Many families mistakenly think they don’t qualify and, by not applying for aid, prevent themselves from receiving help. Many available resources such as Pell grants, Stafford loans, and Perkins loans, are awarded regardless of need. Officers assess students’ and parents’ financial situations and grant aid accordingly.Great resources available
Students can begin searching for financial aid on their own starting with online resources like Fastweb (fastweb.com), the U.S. government’s FAFSA info site (www.fafsa.ed.gov), and Finaid (finaid.org).
School counselors are a huge resource for scholarships and aid. Many districts even distribute monthly newsletters to seniors containing valuable financial aid information, both on grant opportunities and national, state, and local scholarships available.
An important thing to remember when applying for financial aid is to pay attention to deadlines. These are not flexible and the scholarships are for students’ own benefit. Students should make sure the entire form or application is filled out completely, all essays and questions are answered, and all basic information is accurate.
“My guidance counselor told me to apply for everything and anything that may be applicable to me,” said Dan F., a high school student from New York. “There are scholarships out there for left-handed coffee drinkers, they are so random!”
Look everywhere when searching for scholarship opportunities, you might be surprised how many are out there. Check with school counselors, but also look for scholarships that are advertised on the walls of your school, within your community, where your parents work, and your place of worship. Community organizations, local corporations, charities, sports programs, and religious groups often maintain scholarship funds, as well.Other options
Scholarships aren’t the only financial aid resources available. The Federal Pell Grant Program, for example, provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. Grant amounts are dependent on the student’s expected family contribution, the cost of attendance to the school of their choice, the student’s enrollment status (full or part time), and whether or not the student attends for a full academic year.
Stafford loans, meanwhile, are fixed-rate student loans for undergraduate and graduate students attending college at least half-time. According to StaffordLoan.com, unsubsidized federal Stafford loans are the most common and one of the lowest-cost ways to pay for school. However, unlike certain grants and scholarships, loans accrue interest over time and have to be paid back over a period of time after students graduate.
No matter what kind of aid package a family can put together through such sources, they should look carefully at their aid offer before saying yes or no.