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Early Financial Aid Application Gets the Prize

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Have you finished the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid?  If not, what are you waiting for?  It is true that your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)  will be the same no matter how long you wait, but if you procrastinate too long you could lose other financial aid funding.

The most needy students as defined by each college, gets a Federal Student Educational Opportunity Grant. At most colleges there are hundreds if not thousands of students, who would qualify, but there is a limited pool of funding, so they process the awards in the date order the students complete the financial aid process (not just the FAFSA, the whole process). That means if you snooze, you lose. The same is true for work study jobs. The pool of money is limited to the federal allocation a school gets and the generosity of their foundation endowment.   State grants often have a much earlier deadline for FAFSA applications. In California, if you are recent high school graduate with a GPA of 3.0 for University of California schools and 2.0 for other grants you receive an Entitlement grant if you complete the FAFSA and submit a verified GPA by March 2nd. If you complete the FAFSA late you go into a competitive pool with a limited amount of funding. One in eight applicants receives an award and then only those with higher GPAs through a complicated points system.

If you plan to attend a private school, there are many institutional scholarships. You could miss out on your share if you don’t meet priority deadlines. The deadlines won’t be the same for all the colleges so pay attention to those emails and start keeping a calendar.

Foster youth or qualified former foster youth often qualify for a CHAFEE Grant. It can be as much as $5,000. Each state handles the awarding and distribution differently, but there is a limited pool of money. If you are late you may end up on a very long waitlist.

In this difficult economy, college departments are under-staffed and applications are increasing dramatically. There probably won’t be anyone assigned to take you through the process. The expectation is that if you want the money, you will apply early, do your research and submit any requested documents in a timely manner. Read your college email. Read the notices that come from the federal government and your state programs.

What are you waiting for?  All financial aid starts with completing the FAFSA. Every college financial aid applicant has at least a one in three chance of being selected by the Department of Education for a process called VERIFICATION. The College Financial Aid Office will notify you of what you need to submit to complete the process. Make whatever copies are required, fill out the forms requested and return them as soon as you can. 

The earlier you complete your part of the process, the sooner you will know what your financial aid package will be from that college. Remember, each college may give you a different financial aid package, depending on the cost of attendance, whether you are an out of state student and whether they have institutional foundation funding to offer you. In some cases, you might be able to attend a very expensive private college cheaper than you could attend a state college.

Finish your FAFSA today. Then watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR) in your email inbox. The SAR will provide some very important information. We’ll talk about that soon.

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