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Alarm clock that indicates it's not too late to file the FAFSA.

As the end of the academic year approaches, high school seniors and their parents undoubtedly feel the pressure of looming deadlines and important decisions. Added to the mix is the crucial step of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you’re one of those who haven’t completed the applications yet, don’t worry – it’s not too late! Let’s dive into why filing the FAFSA is essential, how the financial aid process works, and why procrastination could cost you.

Why Filing the FAFSA Matters

The FAFSA is the gateway to various forms of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal student loans. Colleges and universities use the information on the application to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based aid. Even if you think your family won’t qualify for assistance, it’s still in your best interest to complete the FAFSA, as some schools require it for merit-based scholarships and other forms of institutional aid.

Steps in the Financial Aid Process

  1. Gather Information: Before filling out the FAFSA, gather necessary documents like 2022 tax returns, W-2 forms, and untaxed income records. Having this information on hand will streamline the application process. Use our FAFSA checklist as a guide. 
  1. Complete the Form: The FAFSA collects financial information about you and your family to determine your Student Aid Index. Colleges use this figure to calculate the amount of financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Complete the form at as soon as possible. 
  1. Complete Verification: Some FAFSA applications are selected for verification, a process where you may need to provide additional documentation to verify the accuracy of the information you provided. If selected, follow the instructions carefully and submit the required documents promptly to your college.
  1. Meet the Deadlines: While some states and colleges have specific FAFSA deadlines, many federal and state aid programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis. That means the sooner you file your application, the better your chances are of receiving aid. Just know that even if you miss the deadline, it’s still worth submitting the FAFSA as you could qualify for other aid programs.
  1. Review Aid Offers: Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, colleges will use the information provided to determine your financial aid offer, including a combination of grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. Review these offers carefully to understand which college offers the best overall financial aid package.

The Cost of Procrastination

Delaying the submission of your FAFSA can have significant consequences. Financial aid is often distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so waiting too long could mean missing out on valuable aid opportunities. Additionally, some states and colleges have limited funds available, meaning once the money is allocated, there may be nothing left for late applicants.

Act Now!

If you still need to complete the FAFSA, don’t wait any longer! The process is straightforward and can be completed online in a relatively short time. By taking this crucial step, you’ll open doors to a wide range of financial aid opportunities that can help make your college dreams a reality.

Need help?

If you have questions about the form or need help completing it, contact EducationQuest for free assistance. 

By Jeannine Phelan