The 5 Most Common FAFSA Mistakes
February 16, 2015 governmentgrants.info Staff
Now is the time of year when many students are getting ready to apply for financial aid and submit their FAFSA. Following are the 5 most common FAFSA mistakes along with tips for avoiding them.
1. Failing To Submit A FAFSA
Failing to take action can derail your entire education plan. The federal government is not going to reach out and offer you financial aid. You'll have to do the necessary work in order to receive this funding. Even though you might not think that your financial need is sufficient, you should still file. Surprisingly, your past academic accomplishments could prove very rewarding given that an impressive GPA will often lead to grant monies. Every bit of funding that you get will help.
2. Submitting The FAFSA Late
It is important to know the deadlines for federal financial aid. The new FAFSA filing period opens on January 1 every year. Every school has a deadline of its own (e.g. Peperdine University has a deadline of May 1, while the University of Maryland has a deadline of February 15). The importance of deadlines cannot be overstated. Much like submitting your FAFSA early will increase your amount of potential aid, submitting your application late will lessen the likelihood of you getting any federal student aid whatsoever.
3. Only Considering Tuition When Choosing A School
Keep in mind that tuition is only one of many considerations that you have to make when determining the costs of college. The cost of going to college vary. We tend to think, "Well, my first choice school costs X amount of dollars and my second choice costs Y. Given that the cost of my second choice is considerably lower, it is definitely the most cost-effective selection."
This isn't always the case. The second choice school might have a lower base price once all of the math has been done and tuition and other expenses have been calculated. Surprisingly, however, the first choice school could offer a better aid package (maybe even grant monies) given that the overall cost of attendance is higher and more difficult for students to cover. Thus, you should never let the base price of a school be the sole determining factor in your selection.
Students have to consider the individual prices for schools as well as the free aid that they can receive (grants, scholarships) AND then calculate how much loan debt they'll have when graduating from these schools. This is the amount that the education will cost overall. Student Financial Aid Services provides a College Cost & Planning Report® that is personalized. This report will allow you to determine which schools are best in line with your professional goals and your budget.
4. Failing To Fully Comprehend Student Loans
In order to determine the cost of college, you have to have a comprehensive understanding of student loans. Different loans will come with different interest rates and you want to learn what these rates are. The Perkins Loan comes with a 5%, fixed rate while the rate for the Stafford Loan can change yearly. All loans are different and some come with variable interest rates.
You also have to be cognizant of when your loans will come due. A lot of student loans come with a six-month grace period. Thus, repayment for a Stafford Loan will be due six months after an extended leave of absence or after graduation. Conversely, the Perkins Loan provides students with a nine-month grace period. This can be very helpful for those who have a hard time obtaining employment after graduation given that borrowers will have additional time before they have to start repaying their loans. You should remember, however, that the Perkins Loan is needs-based and there is also very limited availability for this funding.
5. Thinking That Your Financial Aid Award Won't Change
Do you think that receiving a certain amount of money this year automatically means that you'll be getting the same amount next year? This isn't exactly the case.
Students and their families have to understand that financial aid can be likened to a moving target. For instance, incoming freshman could be eligible for some forms of aid that upperclassmen do not have access to and no one maintains their freshman status forever.
It is also important to remember that federal student aid is based upon income and the student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Should any sudden changes occur (reduced hours, job loss), the student's financial aid will probably be impacted by these changes.
Sidestepping these common FAFSA mistakes will help you quite a bit. Not only will this help you get college funding, but avoiding these errors will also give you a better understanding of the student funding process overall. If you want more formal assistance, you may want to work with professional FAFSA preparers. These professionals are experts in filing for federal student aid and can prove very helpful as you take this exciting and important step. Student Financial Aid Services is at the top of the class when it comes to professionally preparing FAFSA applications.