5 Things to Consider about Financial Aid
The thought of filling out the federal application for college financial aid can be daunting. Kelly Knight, director of Financial Aid at South Louisiana Community College, wants to help.
“Every year students leave thousands of Federal Student Aid dollars on the table, either because they feel the process is too daunting, or because they believe they are not eligible. With these simple tips, we hope to encourage students to consider, and apply for, Federal Student Aid as a way of paying for college,” said Knight.
He offered the following five tips to consider when filling out and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
1. File your FAFSA, and file it early. Whether you believe you are eligible for financial aid or not, file your FAFSA. The Department of Education makes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available on January 1 of each year. The FAFSA is for the Financial Aid Year that begins on July 1 of the same year, and is available through June 30 of the following year. South Louisiana Community College’s Financial Aid Priority Deadline for Fall 2014 is April 1, 2014. To file your FAFSA, you will need to know your income and taxes paid, among other financial information, for the previous year.
2. Make sure the information you provide on your FAFSA is complete and accurate. Each field on the online FAFSA has an information box. Following the guidelines in the information box eliminates much of the guessing game that lengthy forms such as the FAFSA can create. If the information box does not answer your questions, the Department of Education makes available both online chat and an 800 number (1-800-4-FED-AID or 1-800-433-3243) to assist students and parents in completing the application.
3. Include the school code for every school you want to attend. If you think you might be accepted to a college or university, include its school code on your FAFSA. The application allows students to select up to 10 schools, so make sure that you include the school code for each school in which you are interested. At South Louisiana Community College, the school code can be found on the Financial Aid webpage at www.solacc.edu.
4. Verification. The Department of Education routinely selects about 40% of all FAFSA applicants for a process known as Verification. Essentially, the Department wants to ensure that the information provided on the FAFSA is true and accurate. If you are selected for verification, follow the instructions provided by the financial aid office at your school, and submit all required documentation as soon as possible. Also, be sure to read all of the forms completely to make sure that you are responding correctly. Errors in verification will cause unnecessary and unwanted delays. Make sure that you sign and date your documents as well, keep the original for yourself, and turn in copies.
5. Remember that your financial aid is your responsibility. In the end, the financial aid you will be receiving is your financial aid; it does not belong to the school. Whatever time and effort it may take on your part will be worth it. Consider this: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid takes about one hour to complete. For students who are eligible for the full Pell award of $5,645 for the 2014-2015 aid year, and who are not selected for verification, this translates to $5,645 for one hour of time. For students who are selected for verification, and spend another one to two hours gathering and submitting documentation, that time translates to $1,800-$2,600 per hour of time. Very few jobs pay that kind of a wage.