Chicago, IL,
06:00 AM

Have You FAFSA'd?

January is gone, and soon dollars for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants will be, too. These need-based state grants have limited funding and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Eligibility is determined by the information submitted on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so if you haven’t filled yours out yet for the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year, make it a top priority.

Marshelle Sanders, a junior at Governors State University, carried on her tradition of bringing in the new year with her new FAFSA. “It was midnight, and I said to myself, ‘Marshelle, you already know what to do, so just get it done,’ but the website wasn’t working then, so I checked back in around 1 a.m. and I was done before 1:30.”

“I’ve had times in my life when I wasn’t prepared,” she said, “and I put things off. When I was at (junior college), I started getting more prepared. I started attending events about college completion. I went to Commit to Complete rallies. We always had info floating around about the FAFSA, and the earlier the better is what they said. Ever since then I’ve done it every New Year’s Day. It’s important. It’s not even about the money. It’s all about time management for me,” Sanders said, and time management is something she excels at.

A full-time student in the Media Studies program at Governor State University, Sanders works in the food and beverage industry on the weekends, and she explores her Theater and Performance Studies minor by stage managing campus productions. Sanders also writes for Ever Evolved, a website devoted to Chicago’s underground rap and hip hop music scene. She believes “One opportunity leads to another opportunity.” Her post-graduation goal is to create her own interview show for musical artists.

“I’m trying to find a team right now,” she said, “and branch out into my own brand.”

Would Marshelle Sanders be where she is right now without the MAP grant? Maybe. Would she hold more debt? Absolutely. Getting the FAFSA submitted early can mean the difference between receiving state grants and racking up additional yearly debt that can be counted in the thousands of dollars. At that point, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in student loans demanding repayment that could have been avoided by submitting your FAFSA sooner.

Marshelle urges her friends to get their paperwork in early with her. “I tell them, ‘It’s more money and it’s more beneficial if you get it in early.’ If you want to go to school, you don’t want to wait to fill (the FAFSA) out.”