Perhaps you imagine that the time to think about colleges and financial aid is in the spring but as Michelle Singletary points out in the column “Debunking the myths about college financial aid,” October is when the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is released and you need to fill out this form as soon as you can because college financial aid is first-come, first-served. Don’t let this task linger on through the winter holidays since leaving it undone can cost you money.
In her column, Singletary looks at some of the misconceptions people have about financial aid. Some people figure that they won’t get anything because their income is too high. Others decide they don’t want student loans and don’t bother with the FAFSA.
The FAFSA does not just qualify you for no-cost money; it can also be used by those granting school and private scholarships. And if your family has multiple children in college, this affects how the parent contribution is calculated, so your income considered differently when you have more than one college student in the family.
If you already have determined that you don’t want any loans, you should still fill out the FAFSA because 1. you just never know and 2. the form can help your child get grants or a work-study. Ignoring the form may lock out student out of these options.
If you have concerns that your credit rating will affect financial aid, don’t let that keep you from applying since “There’s no credit check for most federal student loans.”
Singletary also addresses non-monetary concerns, noting that your child does not need the best grades in get financial aid. However, she is honest about the fact that your child will need to perform at a certain level to stay enrolled.
And since the financial-aid calculations change each year, you need to fill it out every year in case some change in the formulas or modification of your income works in your favor.