Okay guys, many of you are less than one year away from college and that’s crazy/exciting/scary/cool–all at the same time. There’s a lot to navigate in the college decision process, like visiting college campuses, filling out applications, searching for scholarships, finding the perfect roommate, stocking up on college-ruled paper… Stressed much? But there’s one part of this process that can be particularly puzzling. It’s kind of like a mystery box, you know it’s there but have no idea what it does or how it will affect you.
I'm referring to the FAFSA, my friend.
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s from the Fed, and is Big Brother’s (the government's) way of assessing your family’s income and providing additional funding to help pay for school. The funding can come in three forms.
These are the jackpot of the FAFSA. A grant from the government is money you don’t have to pay back (cha-ching!).
Even if you’re Bill Gates’ kid, everyone (I’ll say it again, EVERYONE) is awarded the option of loans. Most students in the U.S. take loans to help pay for college, and while some people may be resistant to the idea, loans can be pretty helpful, especially with lower interest rates and repayment not kicking in until six months after graduation, giving you a chance to get on your feet post college.
3. Work Study
Finally, you can also qualify for work study through the FAFSA. This means the government has determined that you can work at your college as a student worker and the government will pay 75% of your wages, making you a pretty attractive prospect for departments to hire you.
I imagine some of you saying, “we are not going to qualify for anything, my parents already told me, so why go through the hassle of filling out the FAFSA?” Totally logical thought process. However, while many families only qualify for loans, many institutions, like MC, have other scholarships tied to the FAFSA. MC has several different types of scholarship funds that we award to students, but the FAFSA is required first – and just because you don’t qualify for anything but loans through the FAFSA, at MC, most students can qualify for additional types of scholarships because they completed a FAFSA.
Just keep in mind that college is an investment. What you put in now (time, money, and effort) is likely to pay off exponential dividends the rest of your life. Very few people have enough money just sitting around to pay for college out of pocket. That’s why scholarship programs and federal and state aid can make all the difference. It’s a puzzle really, and you can use your Admissions Counselor at MC to help you figure yours out.
The FAFSA is already open for application for students entering college fall 2017. Talk to your parents and fill it out now so you can find out early what your bottom line could be at the colleges you are considering.
Director of Admissions