One of the biggest challenges for college students and their families is financing a college education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of college spiked 32 percent between 2011 and 2019. But while costs have increased, getting a college education has become more important than ever for landing a stable job.
Fortunately, there is something every student in the U.S. can do to minimize the expenses of college — apply to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It’s a totally free financial aid form that can be submitted annually by both current and prospective college students. Here are some useful tips for every student preparing to apply for financial aid.
1. Start early
Filling out the FAFSA is more complicated than just writing down your name and address. The FAFSA requires documents such as federal income tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements and records of investments. By getting a head start on compiling and organizing all of this information, students and their parents will have more time to double-check their FAFSA application, making the FAFSA process less stressful.
Students who start the FAFSA early also have more time to focus on other financial aid and scholarship applications, maximizing their financial aid potential. Perhaps the most compelling reason to fill out the FAFSA early is that it generally operates on a first-come, first-serve basis and many scholarships have early deadlines.
2. Do your research on the FAFSA
If you make sure you’re prepared during every step of the application process, the work will go smoothly. It is super helpful to read about the FAFSA online and educate yourself on how to properly submit information and avoid mistakes.
Read up on the requirements and jot down important deadlines on your calendar to make completing this in-depth form as predictable as possible. If you need more help, don’t hesitate to contact the FAFSA office or your friendly Marymount admissions counselor.
3. Explore other financial opportunities
Though every student should consider submitting the FAFSA, it’s not the only way to finance your undergraduate education. For example, it’s a great idea to contact the financial aid offices of individual colleges and universities in order to scope out college-specific scholarships. Marymount provides some pretty straightforward advice regarding the FAFSA application process, but we also have an impressive list of available scholarships and you might be surprised at what you’re eligible for. Students should also consider working during college as this can go a long way in financing your education.
Figuring out ways to fund your degree can be stressful, but even small amounts of money will add up if you’re taking advantage of all your options. The FAFSA is just one way for you to accomplish your goals, so start as early as you can!