Why file the FAFSA

As many as 1/3 of college students don’t complete the FAFSA. There are a variety of reasons why not, ranging from fears about its complexity to the assumption that it’s not worth the time because the family is not eligible for aid and hundreds if not thousands of other reasons. The end result is that a lot of money is left on the table and many families are not able to take advantage of federal loan programs. But there are some other, frequently overlooked reasons to fill out the FAFSA:

  • Demonstrating a strong financial position (i.e., being able to afford full tuition) can be advantageous in the admissions process. In order to be generous with merit aid, schools also need to attract students who can pay full tuition. If your student is applying to a “reach” school that you can afford, you should fill out the FAFSA (or CSS PROFILE) to make sure that the school knows you can afford it.
  • Parents who want to have some financial leverage with their student should ensure that the student has access to a direct federal loan. If you have (reasonable) clearly-communicated expectations for your student– “You need to take at least __ credits in order for us to pay your tuition” or “If you want to major in art history, you need a double major in a more marketable field,” for example– then you have more leverage in holding them to these expectations if the fallback position is a loan.
  • Everyone is eligible for federal loans. Everyone who completes the FAFSA, that is. And usually federal loans are your best starting point for borrowing due to all the protections they offer. More often than not, college ends up costing more than you plan , just like everything else in life, so having loans that offer a degree of flexibility in repayment terms can be extremely important in managing the repayment.

So get on it. The FAFSA is here.

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