Arguably the most stressful part of the college admissions process revolves around financial aid. It is often the deciding factor on which school you choose to attend and unfortunately sometimes even whether or not you end up going to college at all.
Today, I’m going to walk you through two very important tools at your disposal that can increase your chances of adequate financial aid: the FAFSA and Augustana’s New Student Financial Aid Form.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not required but highly recommended for college applicants to fill out. Its purpose is to help understand your financial aid eligibility and whether or not you qualify to receive aid.
The FAFSA can be filled out at any time during the admissions process although the earlier you do it the better. Once the pool of money runs out, it’s gone for that cycle so filling it out early is to your benefit.
At Augustana, we actually give you money for submitting it early. That’s right, if you submit the FAFSA to us before November 1st, you’ll qualify for our Early Filers Award worth $750.
Don’t rush through the form too quickly though in order to get it done fast. Taking your time to fill it out reduces the chances of mistakes which can cost you money. Here is a short list of tips to keep in mind when filling out the FAFSA:
Fill out the right year – make sure that you’re not only using this year’s form, make sure that you’re using the correct year for taxes (the previous year’s taxes)
Triple Check the Numbers – one digit could be the difference between more financial aid or less so be sure all of your numbers are accurate
Don’t confuse student/parent information – if a parent is filling the form out, they will often put in their information instead of the student’s (e.g. their SSN instead of the student’s SSN). The same can happen vice versa. Just be alert as to whose information you’re supposed to be filling in throughout the form.
What to report under investments – you don’t need to report retirement savings and the worth of your house under investments so feel free to leave those out
Stepparents/Stepchildren – don’t forget to include any stepparents or stepchildren that live with you. Especially include the stepparent’s income and assets and if any of the stepchildren are presently in college.
Taxes – this can be one of the trickier parts of the form. One helpful tool that you can use is the IRS data retrieval tool. Using this minimizes the risk of error and makes the process much easier.
Keep in mind that this isn’t something you only do once. The FAFSA should be filed each year while you are in college so be sure to stay on top of it each fall.
New Student Financial Aid Form
Like the FAFSA, this form again is not required but still highly recommended. Basically, if you want financial aid from Augustana, you’ll need to fill this out.
This Augustana specific form can be filled out at any time upon the completion of your Augustana application, although the sooner you fill it out the better. And unlike the FAFSA, you only need to fill it out once.
This form gives Augustana additional information that is not asked on the FAFSA and provides us with knowledge about things which can impact how much financial aid you receive such as whether you qualify for fine arts scholarships, whether you plan on living on-campus, and whether or not you meet the criteria for special circumstances.
Some of the questions you can expect to see include your religious affiliation, ethnicity, heritage, and what your intended major is. All in all, the form is easy to fill out and should take much less time than the FAFSA.
By filling these forms out, you can maximize your potential to receive financial aid. We want to do whatever we can to help address your financial need so that college can be as affordable as possible for you. But the only way we can do this is by gathering information about you through these forms.
Look, I know it’s a bunch of boring paperwork, but this boring paperwork can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the long run. And regardless of how stressful you think filling out these forms may be, they are nowhere near as stressful as paying back your student loans.