HomeFinanceYou Can Get Free Money for College — and Help Finding It

You Can Get Free Money for College — and Help Finding It

If you’re contemplating going to school this fall — or subsequent — there’s a method to make sure you’re thought of for as a lot free cash as attainable: by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Completing the FAFSA makes you eligible for federal, state and some school-based support, together with loans, scholarships and grants. But for many college students and households, it may be difficult and time-consuming to fill out the applying, and the pandemic solely added to that burden.

As of mid-August, 57% of the 2021 highschool class had accomplished the FAFSA, a 4.3% decline in contrast with this time final 12 months, in line with estimates from the National College Attainment Network. Including each the category of 2020 and 2021, NCAN estimates that by means of the pandemic, over a quarter-million fewer college students accomplished the FAFSA.

“We’ve seen disproportionate declines in high schools that are educating more students of color and more students from low-income backgrounds,” says Bill DeBaun, director of information and analysis at NCAN. “For those students, the pathway to college has never been easy … and these students often need assistance.”

Various circumstances performed into the decline in FAFSA functions, a few of which had been a results of college students not eager to go to school in the course of the pandemic. Those elements embrace:

  • Students turned disconnected from help networks: Support from group organizations and highschool counselors went digital, limiting its attain.

  • FAFSA completion turned much less of a precedence: Filling out the FAFSA and enrolling in faculty had been placed on the again burner in the course of the pandemic, significantly as a result of improve in financial, job and meals insecurity, says DeBaun.

  • Interest in going to school decreased whereas lessons had been on-line: Knowing that faculty lessons had been utterly on-line stored some college students from filling out the FAFSA and enrolling.

Where to search out assist to fill out the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA could be a complicated course of, significantly in the event you’re the primary in your loved ones to take action. But for college students who’ve questions or need assist filling out the FAFSA, there are assets — and usually, they’re free.

“For high school seniors, there’s help out there. You have to ask for it and sometimes look for it, but there are organizations in communities that want to help students get this money for college,” says Traci Lanier, vice chairman of exterior affairs at 10,000 Degrees, a school entry group that helps college students earlier than and after enrolling in faculty. “Just get [the FAFSA] in because it’s free money and you don’t want to leave money on the table.”

College entry community-based organizations

College entry community-based organizations work to assist college students attain faculty, and that course of consists of filling out the FAFSA. Support is usually provided at FAFSA completion occasions, the place you’ll be able to ask questions and be sure to’re filling out the applying appropriately, or by means of particular person advising.

If there isn’t a school entry group internet hosting in-person occasions in your group, many supply on-line assets to assist information you.

Financial support workplaces

Besides a community-based group, “the best place for students to go is the higher education institution they want to enroll at,” says Maggie McGrath, director at College Now Greater Cleveland. “The financial aid office has people on staff that are ready to help walk them through [completing the FAFSA]. They know all of the ins and outs.”

In some circumstances, the monetary support workplace can level you to a neighborhood faculty entry group in the event you can’t discover one, says Lanier. And though the FAFSA is greatest submitted early, it may be accomplished as much as the time lessons begin, and generally after that, relying on the establishment.

The Federal Student Aid Information Center

The Department of Education affords assist finishing the FAFSA by means of the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The Center affords dwell chats in addition to cellphone help when you’ve got questions on any a part of the applying.

Why you need to fill out the FAFSA

The FAFSA is your ticket to being thought of for federal monetary support, together with support you don’t should repay, like scholarships and grants. And though fall lessons have begun or are set to start quickly, it’s not too late for eligible candidates to obtain support such because the Pell Grant — need-based federal monetary support — for the 2021-22 tutorial 12 months, says DeBaun.

For these seeking to enroll in faculty in 2022, it’s necessary to submit the FAFSA as quickly as attainable as a result of many schools award support on a first-come, first-served foundation. For the 2022-23 award 12 months, the FAFSA submitting interval opens on Oct. 1.

When deciding tips on how to pay for faculty, first exhaust all free cash provided to you earlier than accepting loans. If it’s good to take out loans, use any federal loans which might be provided to you earlier than taking out non-public pupil loans.

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