University Park, IL,
15:53 PM

Have You FAFSA'd?

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Earlier this month you were encouraged to take a pledge to complete your FAFSA by November 30. Have you lived up to your promise? Have you completed the FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a vitally important document that each college student needs to complete in order to qualify for any type of financial aid.

It’s also important to file early because there have been two changes to FAFSA filing this year. First, this year students have been able to apply as early as October 1. If you don’t apply early, money that could have been yours will be allocated to someone else. Second, students now report earlier income information. Instead of waiting for 2016 tax information, students (and parents, as appropriate) must report their 2015 income information instead.Moreover, Monetary Award Program grants, which provide grants to Illinois residents who demonstrate financial need based on the information provided on their FAFSA, ran out of funding mid-February this past year, and the same is likely to occur this year. Therefore, the sooner you complete and submit your FAFSA, the better the opportunity for you to get the most money.Still uncertain? Here are some key reasons why the FAFSA is an essential tool for you — and one that should be completed as soon as possible.

 dollar sign1. Money toward College

Completing your FAFSA is a key step towards easing the burden of the cost of college, allowing you access to state and federal grants, federal loans, work-study opportunities, and scholarships from your school. In addition, the FAFSA itself is free and easy; all it takes is 30 minutes of your time.

  illinois hand2. Time Wasted is Money Lost in Illinois

MAP grants come from an overburdened and limited state fund and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Randi Schneider, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at GSU, stresses that MAP grant deadlines, set by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, usually fall in February, and come with little advance warning. Further, according to the ISAC website, “grant funding is likely to be depleted prior to the filing deadline dates.” This means that if your FAFSA is not on file well before the end of November, even if you are eligible for a MAP grant (of up to $2,000 per semester), you will not receive any funds.

finger pointing3. GSU Needs Your FAFSA

GSU awards several of its own institutional scholarships, and you could be eligible for some of that money, but your FAFSA must be on file before you can be considered.

The FAFSA must also be completed in order for the GSU financial aid team to prepare your financial aid package. The sooner your FAFSA is on file, the sooner they can begin, and the sooner you will have access to the details of your financial outlook for the upcoming school year. You’ll be glad to have more time to plan.

4. Let the Experts Determine Your Eligibility

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you will not qualify for financial aid. Along with federal loans, a completed FAFSA also determines eligibility for federal grants and Work-Study positions (jobs available through school that help students earn money toward the cost of their education). Financial aid packages commonly offer some combination of the three, and they can make a big difference toward reducing post-college debt.

5. The Sooner You File, The More Time You’ll Have to Revise

Early filing also allows more time to make corrections and to complete the verification process, if necessary. Dr. Schneider says that “verification is a random process that requires students and/or their family to provide additional documents related to financial aid eligibility.” While not everyone will experience verification, many people do unwittingly make simple mistakes on their applications. If either happens to you, you’ll be glad you filed your FAFSA early. The more time you leave for corrections, the better your chances of having a properly completed application on file before deadlines for quickly diminishing funds, like the MAP grant.

Don’t Delay!

Now is a critical time for your financial future. Don’t risk missing out on money that will help pay for college.