In a matter of weeks, the pathway to billions of dollars in financial aid will open, as students can begin applying for different types of grants, scholarships, and loans to help pay for college in the 2016-17 school year (July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017).
Starting January 1, 2016, college students and families can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is the first step in determining what a family can afford to pay “out of pocket” and what types and amounts of federal aid they are eligible to receive.
Many students fail to fill out the FAFSA each year for a variety of reasons – they might assume they won’t qualify for federal aid, they feel that filling out the application is too complex, or they don’t know that the aid is available in the first place.
But because many students and families rule out particular colleges because they think they won’t be able to afford them, filling out the FAFSA is a necessary first step to finding the right institutional fit.
Students and parents should keep in mind that what many will actually pay for college could be very different from the advertised “sticker price” shown on a college or university’s website– and that applying for federal student aid is free, and can play a large role in making a school that might seem unaffordable at first glance an attainable reality.
Applying for aid is just the first step, though, and the waiting period can make it difficult to make progress on choosing a college. NASFAA has resources to help students and families estimate how much or what types financial aid they’ll receive, and make college more affordable by cutting costs in other ways.
NASFAA also has a wealth of information for students, families and counselors who advise families on paying for college, including a list of Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Student Aid.
“Filling out the FAFSA can seem daunting for students and their families,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “But students should not be intimidated by the application process. The FAFSA has been streamlined for many students and NASFAA offers tools and advice to help make filling out the application even easier so students don’t end up missing out on valuable financial aid dollars.”
NASFAA’s experts are on hand to discuss why filing the FAFSA correctly is critical, as well as steps policymakers can take to make the process even simpler in the future. To speak to a NASFAA expert, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-785-6959.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit www.nasfaa.org.
Publication Date: 12/16/2015