Ben FINALLY graduated last May, but I remember scrambling to get my taxes done EARLY in order to fill out the federal FAFSA, so that he’d be eligible for AS MUCH financial aid as possible. I know that many of you have sons and daughters that will be attending college next September, so I wanted to take a minute to REMIND you that time if running out on filling out those FAFSA forms.
For those who are struggling with the process, you can now access new, free online tools to help you hit the submit button on the all-important aid application. They can also chat with a FAFSA expert and enter a drawing to win a total of $10,000 in college savings.
Sallie Mae’s FAFSA February Resource Center at www.SallieMae.com/FAFSA has created three short videos to make the process a bit easier. College-bound students and parents can learn what documents they need to complete the aid form, get answers to the most commonly asked questions, and explore next steps in the financial aid process. Families may also download free FAFSA tips to guide them through the process.
“A common misconception about financial aid is that only certain students qualify,” said Barbara O’Brien, Sallie Mae’s director of high school outreach, who conducts financial aid workshops for families. “In reality, virtually every U.S. citizen attending an accredited college is eligible for some kind of financial aid—a grant or a low-cost student loan—you just have to apply for it.”
Experts will also answer frequently asked questions about the FAFSA on Thursday night, Feb. 11, from 9 to 10 p.m. EST. To pose a question in advance or join the live chat, visit www.SallieMae.com/FAFSA.
Just by going to the Sallie Mae site, you can also enter to win the FAFSA College Savings $10,000 Giveaway. You must be either a student or parent of a student to enter. The Gold medalist will win $6,000, Silver will win $3,000, and Bronze will win $1,000 in money for college. Prizes will be deposited into the winner’s Upromise rewards account, where winners can continue to earn cash rewards for college.
According to a national study from Sallie Mae and Gallup, How America Pays for College, 24 percent of families did not complete the FAFSA last academic year. Half said they did not complete the form because they were not aware or did not think they would qualify for aid.
Sallie Mae recommends students follow the “1-2-3 approach” to paying for college: first, use free money by filling out the FAFSA to access need-based grants and research and apply for scholarships, supplemented with current income and savings. Second, explore federal loans. Third, fill any gap by using a pay-interest-as-you-go private education loan. For example, Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan helps ensure that what a student originally borrowed is all he owes at graduation.