4 Reasons You Should Start Your FAFSA Early
Ever heard of the old adage, “Turn it in at the last minute to make sure you win it?”
However, I have heard, “The early bird gets the worm.”
And that couldn’t ring more true than when it comes to completing the FAFSA. The FAFSA, short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is what its name describes it as. It is a free application the U.S. federal government uses to determine how much financial aid college and university students are eligible for. For instance, upon completing the FAFSA, you’ll receive an Expected Family Contribution, which is often referred to as your “EFC.” Your EFC is the amount of money the U.S. government expects your family (you included) to contribute to your education. In turn, schools use your EFC to determine how much aid (in the form of grants, loans, and even work-study) they will grant you.
You’ll want to start and submit your FAFSA as early as possible, for the following reasons:
1. Federal Deadlines
Each academic year the federal government sets deadlines for the FAFSA to be completed. So, for instance, for the 2017-2018 award year, students must complete the FAFSA between October 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to get money for school because you didn’t complete the application on time.
2. School-specific deadlines
Furthermore, individual colleges and universities have their own, internal deadlines. The quicker you begin and complete your FAFSA, the less risk you encounter of missing the school deadline.
Not to mention, each school has a specified budget for the amount of Pell grants (i.e. free money you don't have to pay back) and work-study grants (i.e. money you have to work for). However, once it’s gone, it’s gone! Get your FAFSA complete and sent off to the schools you're interested in to make sure they don't run out of funds before you receive your rightful share.
3. Scholarships may want a sneak-peek.
Sometimes, scholarship donors want to make sure they are giving their money to individuals who need it the most. Hence, to measure “need,” they may ask for a copy of your parents’ tax return and/or a copy of your FAFSA results. You don’t want your procrastination of completing the FAFSA to hinder you from being awarded a scholarship.
4. It may take a while. Get started NOW!
Honestly, the FAFSA can be a time-consuming, multi-layered process. After asking about your financials, the application then wants to know the financial information of each of your parents, which requires retrieving past tax returns and other financial documents. Starting the application early allows you to complete the application in measured phases, and you and your parents will have time to gather the requested information. Trust me, it will be a lot less nerve-racking to complete the application one thing at a time at a paced rhythm, than trying to gather financial statements, income taxes, references, and every other financially-related piece of information in a stressed-out frenzy. Start early. Pace yourself.
Also, for other general advice regarding college and/or law school, check out our hourly consultations at HarvardandHardshipLLC.com.
I wish you all the best in your educational endeavors.
The path to academic excellence should not be a secret.
-Angel Everett, Esq.
Founder and CEO, Harvard and Hardship LLC