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FAFSA Need to Knows

Tim Gouw on Unsplash
The FAFSA application usually takes 7-10 days to process.

Seniors are months away from graduation. At this time of year lots of things are usually figured out about next steps, but not for this group. Normally the FAFSA application comes out in October of a student’s senior year, but this year the application was delayed to opening on December 31, 2023, leaving seniors a bit more stressed than usual. 

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Essentially, the application asks for the previous year’s tax information to provide a portion of what your family’s income, assets, and dependents are like so they can determine your eligibility for student aid.

“For right now, the tax information that is going through is actually the 2022 tax information, since normally the FAFSA would’ve opened up in fall of 2023 for our seniors,” DRHS counselor Kirsten Link said.

The purpose of the FAFSA is to determine a family’s financial needs when it comes to paying for college. Some families won’t be awarded as much aid because their annual income is too high, while others can get a significant amount of aid due to their families’ economic status. 

Different types of student aid

The FAFSA allows students to apply for aid which is either received through a grant, loan, or work study. The first is a grant, which is money given that doesn’t need to be paid back, an example of that is the Pell Grant.

A loan is money offered that a student would need to pay back at a later date. Federal student loans are different from loans from banks. They provide better timing, so you don’t have to pay them back until after you finish college. 

The last aid the FAFSA can provide students with is a work study. A work study means the university provides a student with a job at the university. Although, you don’t get a regular paycheck, instead it goes toward your tuition costs. These jobs are usually flexible and accommodating to a student’s school schedule. 

Federal pell grant accessibility has become available to more students because of the new FAFSA. (Kenny Eliason on Unsplash)

What you need to start filling out the form

According to U.S. News, the new FAFSA form can be completed by most in less than 10 minutes. There are some materials a student will need to start this process, including the student’s and parents’ current savings and checking account numbers, the net worth of the student and parents, what assets the student and parents have, the student’s and parents’ social security number, and the names of the schools that the student would like to send the FAFSA information to. Students and parents should create an FSA ID a few days before they intend to fill out the form; you cannot complete the form the same day the FSA ID is made. 

“I think, right now, one of the main problems is just logging in… because the FAFSA shifted a lot of things,” Link said. “I don’t know if there is much confusion once parents and students get everything entered. Another downfall is students that don’t have as much parent involvement or maybe have split households —that can get a little confusing. Although, they’re trying to make that easier to navigate. Once you get that information in there, it’s pretty simple and straightforward. The angst leading up to filling it out is the main issue.”

How many students actually receive aid?

According to Best Colleges, during the 2020-2021 school year, about 85.4% of full-time undergraduate students received aid. 

At Colorado University Boulder, for example, about 68% of full-time first-time undergraduate students receive aid. The average amount of aid awarded to each student at CU is approximately $11,017 per year. 

What does the college do after they receive the FAFSA information?

“The Department of Education is the owner of the application who will process the information provided to them and then distribute it to the schools the student has chosen to share with,” the CU associate director and client services for the financial aid office, Louis Melucci, said. “Schools will determine their packaging policy and will use the FAFSA information to award federal, state, and university aid appropriately. Most schools will have an aid estimator or a net cost calculator to help students estimate what they might receive should they attend their institution. We advertise on our website who might be eligible for our grant money.”

Final Tip

“I would recommend getting on it sooner rather than later since there have been some technical issues,” Link said. “Also, we send out information about virtual or in person sessions about the FAFSA. I would recommend going to those. We (counselors) can only answer general questions, we can’t dive into your personal information and situation.”

FAFSA is now open for the 2024-2025 school year, and any student looking to attend college next year should consider filling out the application. Even for students that don’t believe they will receive any aid, it is still beneficial to complete the application.

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About the Contributor
Brook Nekuda
Brook Nekuda, Staff Writer
Brook Nekuda is a senior at Dakota Ridge and a first year reporter for The Cord News. She joined the team to broaden her experience and further develop her writing. Outside of school, she enjoys hanging out with friends, being outdoors, and going to concerts. She hopes to pursue a career in nursing when she graduates. 

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