Scanning the cafeteria menu in the crowded line, Sarah overheard two fellow students talking about filling out financial aid forms for college. She wondered why the students were relieved to have the FAFSA application process completed so early. Wasn’t there plenty of time for filling out the college FAFSA forms? Sarah pulled out her phone and Googled Free Application For Federal Student Aid, in order to research the FAFSA application process with more scrutiny. Surprisingly, she discovered that there is not an unlimited supply of money for students seeking financial aid, the directives on the FAFSA website noted that there may be limited funds for a few Federal Student Aid programs. The key is to apply as soon as possible when trying to secure the best possible funding sources. Grateful for the time-sensitive discovery, Sarah filled out her FAFSA application with the help of her parents later that evening.
Now, Sarah’s story is only based on a true story, but what is entirely accurate is that often students (and their parents!) don't realize -- until it's too late -- the importance of submitting their FAFSA forms earlier than normal.
Note: Silver Lake College knows that considering a higher education can be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why SLC has put together a College Admissions Resource Library to help answer some of your questions and concerns.
Here are three reasons to get ahead and file your FAFSA applications early:
An early start on your FAFSA forms helps to ensure that aid does not run out.
Generally, FAFSA aid runs out, so the sooner you complete the application process the better.
An academic year begins July 1, 2016 and runs until the end of June the following year, 2017. In order to meet the deadlines, you need to file during a 21-month window for each academic year. For instance, you may file nine months before Oct. 1, 2017 until June 30, 2018. Keep in mind that these deadlines are for Federal Student Aid.
Other forms of aid: state, sponsored, grants, etc., each have their own deadlines. Sometimes state aid has a shorter window of opportunity. Knowing the filing and application details, and deadlines will give you an edge in reaching your academic and career goals.
Note: You should never hesitate to reach out to the college aid staff if you have questions about the financial aid process. Simply go to the college home page and click the appropriate financial aid tabs.
An early start on your FAFSA forms will give you more time to fill them out in careful detail.
As you take advantage of the benefits of submitting your FAFSA forms early, remember to fill out your FAFSA application with the most accurate and detailed information possible. Your filing date could be altered if your information is inaccurate or incomplete.
Due to the large volume of FAFSA requests for aid and/or technical glitches with the processing platforms, your filing date could be altered. So, you’ll want to submit your information at the earliest possible date. Aim for a submission date as soon as possible once the FAFSA is available during the school year you plan to start.
And remember that filing with FAFSA is your part, but processing, which takes about two weeks after filing, is completed by the U.S. Department of Education.
An early start on your FAFSA forms will help you assess what your college education will cost you (or your parents).
With accurate FAFSA information at your fingertips, you and your parents can determine with more accuracy what funds you will need to pursue your academic goals. Assessing the cost of college before the bills become due, allows you some freedom from financial stress, so you can focus your efforts on learning and growing.
Studentaid.ed.gov provides additional tools to forecast what family contributions you can make toward your academic costs. Using an online tool called a FAFSA4caster, you can enter a selected school’s cost of attendance to see possible college funding sources such as Federal Pell Grant amounts, Federal Work-Study amounts, and direct subsidized and unsubsidized loan eligibility. Additionally, there are fields where you can include state, college aid and scholarship money you expect to receive. The FAFSA4caster worksheet provides a glance at your estimated EFC or Expected Family Contribution, as well as a look into the net cost of your college education.
Knowing what to expect financially before committing to the college of your choice adds financial freedom and focus for both you and your parents.
And, an early start on your FAFSA forms will give you more time to research additional financial aid options.
Filing your FAFSA for processing soon after it becomes available, during the school year you plan to attend, provides you with more time to research alternative funding sources. Most school counselor offices provide a good deal of information about scholarships, grants and other forms of student aid.
Others sources of college student aid include Federal Work-Study programs where colleges employ students on a part-time basis during the enrollment period, to help offset your education costs. Federal Pell Grants are offered to some students with financial needs. Loans also are available as either subsidized (the federal government pays accruing interest while the student is enrolled) or unsubsidized loans (the borrower carries the accruing interest responsibility from the date of disbursement throughout the life of the loan).
Applying for financial aid can be stressful, but FAFSA gives you the option of early submission, which will make the process just a little easier.
Leveraging the early option to file your FAFSA application provides a smooth processing experience, effective financial planning and timely opportunities to secure additional college aid funding. Filing the FAFSA as soon as possible during the year you plan to attend school, frees you to open doors for academic learning, accelerates future career growth possibilities and keeps you ahead of deadlines for student aid fund distributions before they are gone.
Are you interested in learning more about where, when and by what means to go to college? We invite you to subscribe to The Silver Lake Blog to help you navigate these choices.