If you are a high school senior or a college student in need of financial aid, the answer to “What are you doing this winter break?” should be: Filling out my FAFSA form!
You will still have plenty of time to enjoy the holiday parties, but don’t miss out on your biggest present of all — tens of thousands of dollars in potential financial aid — by failing to take your FAFSA seriously.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the way the government and your college or university determine how much financial assistance you are entitled to, from federal grants and student loans to federal work study. Many colleges and private foundations or philanthropies require the FAFSA results to allot scholarships.
Did you know one simple calculation error your FAFSA can cost you thousands of dollars in federal financial aid? Make sure your form is error-free before you submit it online. One good way to avoid mistakes is to print out a copy of the FAFSA worksheet and work through that before you fill out your real form online.
The form can be a bit complicated, especially your first time filling it out, and there is a litany of documents you need to gather together before you actually get started. If you’re not sure where to get started, review my five-part FAFSA Workshop series from last winter.
Part I: Essential FAFSA Document Checklist
Part II: Getting a FAFSA PIN
Part II: Common Mistakes on the FAFSA Form
Part IV: Determining Your FAFSA Deadline
Part V: FAFSA FAQs
This year, I’m hounding you about your FAFSA even earlier since experts are predicting a record high number of applicants for federal aid. Even if your school has a spring deadline, you can — and should — turn in your FAFSA as early as possible.
Also be sure to take advantage of any free FAFSA workshops being sponsored in your community. Check with your high school guidance counselor, local community college, and public libraries.
So, what are you doing this winter break???