Common misconception. There are a couple of things you should know:
- First, many colleges use the FAFSA as the first step to applying for their own scholarships and grants. (In other words, the FAFSA is a gateway to start their scholarship application process.)
- “Not eligible” is not likely. Even millionaires can be eligible for low-cost federal loans. These can be very helpful to families of all levels of income, especially in an uncertain economy.
- Bottom line: The reasons to complete the FAFSA far outweigh any reason not to.
“Why would I apply for scholarships before I even get in?”
Because priority deadlines are coming! Priority deadlines are when you must submit the FAFSA for maximum consideration for aid. What’s that mean in plain English? It means first come, first served. Colleges will use the FAFSA information they get by the priority deadline to plan distribution of the vast majority of their funds. While you can submit the FAFSA later, most of the money will have already been awarded. (Think of being at the ballpark on free t-shirt day. If you get there after most of the fans, they probably will be out of t-shirts.)
Let’s recap, since this is so important. Whatever you do, DO NOT wait for an admissions decision to apply for scholarships or aid. Don’t worry – colleges know that most of the admissions decisions haven’t yet been made. This is standard operating procedure.
“We haven’t done our taxes yet, so we can’t complete it.”
Yes you can. The FAFSA can be completed using estimated tax information. Any changes can be reported to your college’s financial aid office as soon as they have been completed.
- Make sure you are on the real FAFSA site: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ Unfortunately, sketchy characters would love to get their hands on your financial data, so only go to the actual government site. (Similarly, if you’re on any supposed financial aid site that is pretending to help you with college costs while asking you for money, view that as a giant red flag.)
- Note that priority FAFSA deadlines vary widely among colleges, from when it becomes available in October, to mid-January, all the way to June!
- Double-check your potential colleges’ full (proper) names, so you can be sure to pick the right school from the thousands on the form. (Careful, some of them are tricky. You don’t want your data going to the wrong school!)
- Scholarship and financial aid processes are different for every college. Go to the financial aid web pages for all of your top choices to be sure you are fulfilling their specific requirements.