If you've got a student in your household, it's FAFSA time

notebook and backpack

October 1 marks the start of FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) filing season for the 2018-19 academic year.  This free form gives you access to the largest pool of financial aid for post-high school education – so it’s important to fill out every year.  And the earlier you complete the form, the better your chances of accessing financial aid -- since some states and schools have limited funds available -- so don’t delay!  

Here’s some basic FAFSA advice and answers to common questions, from the team at Clarifi.  (And when you're ready to get started, click here).  

Who should consider filling out the FAFSA form, and why?

Any student who will be in college, undergraduate, graduate or career school for the 2018-19 school year needs to file FASFA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.   The FASFA is required to receive any federal or state grants and scholarships and for all federal loans.  FASFA must be completed every year a student is in school.     

What are some common stumbling blocks or misconceptions that families have about applying for financial aid?

One of the biggest misconceptions:  many families who feel they will not qualify for needs-based financial aid think there is no reason for them to complete FASFA.  However, many colleges look to this information when awarding merit-based grants and scholarships.  Also, if a student wants to borrow money (Direct Student Loan) through the federal government, they must complete the FASFA.

Another stumbling block for some is understanding financial aid takes on many forms.  Loans or money you pay back are one form of financial aid that is awarded.  This can be overlooked in an award letter.   

What’s the difference between public and private student loans?   

Federal loans are loans funded by the federal government, while private loans are funded by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency or school. 

Federal student loans include many benefits such as fixed interest rates and different repayment and forgiveness plans, which are not typically offered with private loans. In contrast, private loans are generally more expensive than federal student loans.

Any specific tips or advice for families who are looking to maximize their chances of financial aid?  

The best advice we can offer is to be as informed as possible, to understand the different type of financial aid available in advance of your child’s senior year in high school so there are no surprises and you can prepare adequately.

Click here for more info. on FAFSA from the Federal Trade Commission.  

Click here to start your FAFSA application.