5 Reasons You Should Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – Nicole Callahan

1. It’s the only way to gain access to the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid.

Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting federal aid for college, career school, or graduate school. Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year, but you have to complete the FAFSA to see if you can get any of that money. Not to mention, many states, schools and scholarships also use the FAFSA to award financial aid, so every college-bound student should complete it.

2. It’s FREE!

The FAFSA is free to complete and there is help provided throughout the application. Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. We urge you not to pay these sites for assistance that you can get for free at the official FAFSA website: www.fafsa.gov.

3. It’s easier than ever.

We’ve done a lot over the past few years to simplify the FAFSA. One of the most exciting enhancements has been the launch of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. The tool allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS Web site, saving lots of time. This year, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will launch in early February, so be on the lookout for that.

4. It only takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Given all the simplifications we’ve made over the last couple of years, the FAFSA now only takes about 30 minutes to complete. That’s probably less time than you spend watching your favorite TV show each week. And think of the benefits: spend 30 minutes completing the application and you could qualify for thousands of dollars in financial aid. Talk about return on investment.

5. More people qualify than you’d think.

If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! I’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:

    • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
    • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
    • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
    • “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”

If you think any of these statements apply to you, then you should read “Myths About Financial Aid.” The reality is, EVERYONE should fill out the FAFSA! Don’t leave money on the table.

For information and tips on completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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