According to a StarTribune article published December 19, the number of high school seniors who have filed a FAFSA form – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – was down 14 percent over this time last year. The FAFSA became available on October 1, and while there is still time to submit it, the earlier a student files the form the better.
The FAFSA is the portal to federal grants and loans as well as financial aid from states and individual colleges. Another important thing to keep in mind is that some states and colleges have earlier deadlines for scholarships applications (which often require a FAFSA form). These scholarships are often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. So the sooner a student completes the form, the more likely they are to receive scholarship funds.
Some experts believe the shift to virtual learning has hampered students’ ability to file timely FAFSAs. The FAFSA form is long and requires a lot of detailed information. Students often need assistance from a counselor or other knowledgeable adult to complete the form. This kind of assistance is more difficult when to obtain when students and counselors cannot meet one-on-one, but it is worth the effort to be assertive in seeking out assistance and accept help when it is offered.
There is some concern among parents because the current FAFSA form uses pre-pandemic income data from 2019 – which often does not always accurately reflect a household’s present circumstances. Financial experts recommend contacting colleges’ financial aid offices to explain extenuating circumstances. They are accustomed to these types of inquiries and are eager to provide extra assistance when possible.