Apply For FAFSA College Aid Money Now, But Avoid These Costly Mistakes

The free app for Federal Student Aid – also known as FAFSA – launched on October 1 for students planning to attend college next fall. This is one of the most important steps students and their families can take to get money to pay for their college education as schools use it to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships, loans. and the work-study program.

Students and their families should file their FAFSA as soon as possible to get their share of the $ 150 billion in federal student aid, experts say. But they also warn that any mistakes could cost students thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Although the FAFSA is a crucial part of financial aid, 20% of undergraduates have no plans to complete it this year, according to a recent study by Student Loan Hero. He interviewed more than 1,000 undergraduates from September 9 to 20.

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In fact, 85% of students were unaware that the FAFSA determines eligibility for free aids such as scholarships and work-study programs in addition to loans, the survey showed.

“Unfortunately, many students have misconceptions about the FAFSA, which could cost them valuable financial support,” Student Loan Hero said in his report.

The FAFSA is a free financial aid form administered by the Department of Education that helps students qualify for loans and financial aid for college. Students must complete the FAFSA form to apply for a federal student loan.

FAFSA household data – such as annual income and savings – is analyzed by the Department of Education to determine how much a family could pay for college. Colleges also receive data from the FAFSA, which serves as the basis for their offers of financial aid to applicants, as well as state agencies.

Here are the mistakes to watch out for with the FAFSA, according to experts.

1. Ignore the FAFSA

According to Sallie Mae’s annual How America Pays for College report, only two-thirds (68%) of families with potential students for the 2020-21 academic year submitted to the FAFSA, the lowest recorded since 2008, according to the report. Sallie Mae Annual.

The most common reason? Almost half (44%) didn’t apply for the FAFSA because they didn’t think they could qualify for financial aid, the Sallie Mae study showed.

“While this reasoning is more prevalent among high-income families (58%), almost one in three low-income families (31%) and middle-income families (36%) share this perception,” said Sallie Mae in the report. . “Much of it seems to be a perception. “

A third of them, meanwhile, didn’t apply because they either missed the deadline, found the application problematic or too complicated, or didn’t have time, Sallie’s data showed. Mae. Seven percent of non-filers did not have time to submit, and 10% were unfamiliar with FAFSA.

Prospective students are pictured touring the Georgetown University campus in Washington.

Regardless of income, there are reasons to submit a FAFSA, experts say.

Any eligible student can benefit from certain types of aid, including unsubsidized federal student loans. These are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate and professional students. But eligibility is not based on financial need.

It is also worth submitting your FAFSA in case your financial situation changes during the year.

2. Don’t wait to complete your FAFSA

Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible, experts urge. Federal financial assistance is provided on a first come, first served basis, so apply as early as possible to maximize your financial assistance.

According to Student Loan Hero, around 42% of those planning to file this year do not plan to do so as soon as possible. As these students compete for financial aid and loans, they may unknowingly cut back on their financial aid in the meantime, experts say.

The last day to complete the FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 academic year is June 30, 2023.

But college and state financial aid timelines vary, so be sure to check your state’s financial aid timelines here:

Plus, ask for the FAFSA every year. You must complete it each year that you are or plan to be a student.

3. Avoid mistakes on your FAFSA

Check the FAFSA form for errors before submitting it and be sure to include additional forms if necessary.

Mistakes like inaccurate Social Security and driver’s license numbers could slow down your paperwork if they are flagged for review by colleges or the Department of Education, experts say.

Most errors on the FAFSA online application can be corrected after submission, but an error with Social Security numbers may require you to resubmit, experts say.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FAFSA 2022-2023: How To Get Money For College With This App

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