What is FAFSA and how can it help?

What is FAFSA and how can it help?

It’s October, and seniors at Palatine High School are visiting colleges, submitting applications, and planning their future. But with those activities, they are also considering payment plans for college; that’s where FAFSA comes in. 

“FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And it’s important because it’s money from the government that families can hopefully get in the form of loans or grants,” Jordan Smason, college counselor and advisor at Palatine High School said. “Loans, you have to pay back, grants you don’t.”

It can be tough to know who gets what money and how much. Since Palatine is such a diverse community, it can be unclear whether everyone gets money from FAFSA or not.

“So any student is eligible for financial aid, however, the government decides if you get it or not,” Smason said. “If you’re in a middle class family, you’re probably going to get loans, but if you’re in a lower class family, you may get some grants that you don’t have to pay back.”

Not every student gets the same amount of money from FAFSA. It really depends on household income, then the government determines how much money you get. For some, that might be enough to cover lots of college expenses. For others, it could just be a smaller amount to cover some costs. 

“FAFSA has helped us with [my son’s] schooling,” Carla Perry, parent of a current University of Iowa student athlete said. “Last year they gave us a small amount of money, but this year was much more.”

A concern among parents and students that may arise is how to manage and complete the FAFSA form correctly. FAFSA opens for class of 2024 applicants in December, which is much later than the usual October opening, something that can be more stressful in an already stressful college application process.

“The site is hard to figure out,” Perry said. “We had to fill out the paperwork a few times to get it right.”

But that shouldn’t scare anyone away from asking for help or attending workshops to properly fill out the FAFSA form. Palatine High School prioritizes the college application process to be easy and completable for all students.

“We’re going to have a financial aid night in November, and then workshops in December once it’s open for students and their families to come and fill it out,” Smason said. “Or they can just do it on their own online.”

College applications are hard in itself, so the financial aid part shouldn’t be an addition to that. Do the research and find what financial plan is best.

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