5 Common FAFSA Mistakes to Avoid to Put You On The Right Path for College
As schools start to ramp up, imminent college students are picking out classes, picking up supplies and most importantly, filling out their FAFSA. This government document qualifies you for different loans, grants and government aid. Here are the five most common mistakes made when filling it out.
Forgetting to Submit
There’s a lot going on at the beginning of the school year, which is why it’s easy to forget about filling out and submitting your FAFSA. Though a common mistake, it can throw off the rest of your school year in a detrimental way. No one goes around handing out financial aid. Without this pertinent form, the government has no way of aiding financial in your efforts to achieve a higher education.
For those out there who aren’t sure if they qualify for any type of need based aid, it’s still helpful to fill out your FAFSA. You never know what type of aid you could qualify for or how your circumstances might change throughout the school year. Sometimes grants and loans are based off GPA rather than simply financial need. Without filling out your FAFSA, you have no way of collecting off your hard work.
The deadlines for financial aid are hard lines. They do not waver because you got busy and forgot. For FAFSA, the filing period opens January 1 each year. The deadlines, however, vary depending on the college or university. Check with the financial aid office at your prospective school and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to fill out and submit your FAFSA before the deadline. This way any missing or incorrect information can be adjusted without fear of being late to submit your application.
Allowing Tuition to Determine Your School Choice
It’s no secret that college can be very costly but allowing tuition costs and tuition alone decide where you attend is a mistake that will affect the rest of your future. It’s tempting to look at potential schools and compare them purely based off of a price tag, prioritizing where you want to go based completely on cost.
But you may be counting out the varying amounts of financial support colleges and university offers. Even though one college may have lower base tuition, they may not offer the financial aid package that the more expensive school does. Never let the base cost make your determination. You need to dive in a little deeper and look at the big picture when it comes to finances and financial aid packages offered by each school.
When considering the finances of schooling, be sure to look at the base costs while also considering the amount of free aid that you are eligible to receive (including grants, loans and scholarships). After you’ve thoroughly looked at this, you can then make an educated calculation as to the cumulative cost your education will have. This number will help you better decide which college fits best with your plan for higher education and your future career plans.
Having a False Understanding of Financial Loans
To fully grasp the financial weight of college, you have to have a thorough understanding of student loans. Each loan will have a different interest rate and in turn will have a different effect on your future. Some loans, like the Perkins Loan, have a fixed rate, 5%, while other loans, like the Stafford Loan, rates change yearly. Variable and fixed rate loans are important aspects to take into consideration when accepting loans.
It’s also important to look at when payments are due. Many student loans have grace periods where you are not required to make payments. The Stafford Loan allows you to take up to six months after graduation or an extended time away from school to start paying the loan back. On the other hand, the Perkins Loan gives student nine months before their payments begin. These grace periods are incredibly helpful when it comes to gaining proper employment before paying off your student loans. Keep in mind though, certain loans, like the Perkins Loan, are need based and not available to everyone.
Assuming Your Financial Aid Won’t Change Over Time
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your financial aid will remain the same year to year. Financial Aid changes from year to year based off anything from financial standing to how far along you are in school. Upper classmen might not be eligible for the same aid that freshmen are. Financial aid is based off both income and the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If things like income or hours worked changes, your financial aid will reflect this.
Making sure you’re aware of these common mistakes so that you can avoid them will get your college career off on the right foot.