The FAFSA is the primary document students and parents will fill out to receive federal financial aid. There are several types of federal aid that comes through the FAFSA:
- Direct Loans (Subsidized/Unsubsidized)
- Federal Supplemental Education Opportunities Grant (FSEOG)
- PELL Grant
- TEACH Grant (for Teachers Education)
- Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
- The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART)
- Institutional Grants
On top of these funds, there is also Campus based aid available:
- Work Study
- Perkins Loans
After this, there isn’t much else. So what happens when the Award Letter (this is from the school and explains how much aid students are awarded) doesn’t match the cost of going to the school? SCHOLARSHIPS!
The key to earning scholarships is 3 fold. This is of course speculation and opinion. While I wish I could say this is a sure-fire way to do it and I promise you’ll get more scholarship alas, I cannot. There are however some tips I can give you to help make yourself more appealing.
- GRADES: This may seem simple to you, but grades are very important! Most scholarships include a “need” based caveat, but you often can’t apply without having a GPA above a 3.0. Study hard and keep your GPA up. This helps on a number of different levels: (1) It helps build self discipline, (2) It will help get you into college (or a better college) and (3) it will help make you attract more scholarship opportunities.
- Quantity: Our whole lives we have been taught “Quality over Quantity”. In this case, we need both! One author suggested applying for at least one scholarship every day for at least 6 months. That is 182 scholarships minimum! That may seem like a lot, but I can show you how to do it.
- Quality: This is more than just having correct grammar and sentence structure. While that is important, what you write about is also important. Most of the time scholarship judges are also professional essay readers, and they may read a thousand essays just to pick 1 out of 5000 applicants (quantity is important!) Writing about things you are passionate about, writing in a colorful manner, and creating content that speaks loudly are just a few ideas for writing essays that stick out. I can also help create high quality essays for scholarships.
- Activity: Stay active in the community. Get involved in politics, helping the homeless, or some other social service that appeals to you. You’ll find yourself growing in ways you never thought possible, and you’ll become passionate about things you never knew you were passionate about. This will come out in your writing and help you develop some life goals and direction.
I can help if you are looking for scholarships. Feel free to contact me!
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Completing The FAFSA
The best way to complete the FAFSA is early, and online. January 1st is the soonest you can apply; remember that there are sometimes early deadlines for awards and that awards often consist of limited funding. Complete your taxes early because you’ll need that information, otherwise you can estimate the amounts from previous years and correct the amounts on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA website.
If you apply online, your application will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because your application will be processed on the FAFSA website to catch errors. The online application also provides worksheets that will calculate amounts and enter them into the field for you. You can save and continue the FAFSA at any time online and then sign your application electronically using a personal identification number (PIN) which you can get from the Federal Student Aid PIN website.
Making mistakes on your FAFSA could delay your application and possibly make you lose out on some financial aid. The most common errors people make are listed below. As you complete the FAFSA try to avoid these errors.
- Leaving blank fields–enter a ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ instead of leaving a blank. Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection.
- Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields–always round to the nearest dollar.
- Listing incorrect Social Security Number or Driver’s license number–check these entries and have someone else check them too. Triple check to be sure.
- Entering the wrong federal income tax paid amount–obtain your federal income paid amount from your income tax return forms, not your W-2 form(s).
- Listing Adjusted Gross Income as equal to total income–these are not the same figure. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income. This mistake is particularly common.
- Listing marital status incorrectly–only write yes if you’re currently married. They want to know what you’re marital status is on the day you sign the FAFSA, or Renewal FAFSA.
- Listing parent marital status incorrectly–the custodial parent’s marital status is needed; if they’ve remarried, you’ll need the stepparent’s information too.
- Leaving the question about drug-related offenses blank–If you’re unsure about something, find out before you submit your FAFSA instead of leaving it blank. A conviction doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from getting aid.
- Forgetting to list the college–obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it–along with any other schools to which you’ve applied.
- Forgetting to sign and date–if you’re filling out the paper FAFSA, be sure to sign it. If you’re filing electronically, be sure to obtain your PIN from www.pin.ed.gov. Your PIN is your electronic signature and will always be assigned to you only.
- Entering the wrong address–your permanent address is not your campus or summer address.
- Sending in a copy of your income tax returns–you will be contacted if your information needs verification; you don’t need to send a copy of your tax returns in with your application.
Much of the financial information you need to provide is on your tax forms. Completing your taxes early can make the application process easier because you’ll have the financial information you need in one place. You can estimate your financial information using previous tax years and correct the amounts on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA website. If you are not required to file taxes you still have to fill out a FAFSA to get financial aid.