February may be a short month, but it is packed with holidays and observances. There are one-day holidays like Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents’ Day, and major observances such as Black History Month. There are a few silly days like National Tater Tot Day and National Carrot Cake Day, and the all-important Super Bowl Sunday.
But one observance that should stick out to high school juniors and their parents is National Financial Aid Awareness Month. This is the time of year when the higher education community makes an all-out effort to provide crucial information about access to federal, state, and institutional student aid. The goal is to help you become more informed about the financial aid process, so it will be less intimidating during the fall college application season.
It might not seem like a big reason to celebrate, but financial aid is actually the key to being able to pay for college. Statistics about institutional aid for undergraduate and graduate students, according to the NASFAA, include:
- In 2020-21, institutions provided an estimated $57 billion in grant aid to undergraduate students.
- In 2020-21, undergraduate students received an average of $14,800 per FTE (full-time equivalency) student, including $10,050 in grants, $3,780 in federal student loans, approximately $880 in education tax credits, and about $90 in Federal Work-Study.
- 84% of full-time, first-time undergraduate students received financial aid in the 2018-19 school year.
This month, and throughout the year, CFAA joins with high school counselors, college financial aid officers, and industry professionals across the nation to provide you with information you need to make your college dreams come true. Some topics we will cover throughout the year include:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Financial Aid: Get the most out of your financial aid application by learning more about how the process works.
- All Things FAFSA: FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The S Department of Education uses the FAFSA to determine students’ eligibility for federal financial aid based on their financial situation. Completing this form could provide you with access to federal grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans, different forms of money to pay for school. Schools, states, and some scholarships also use this information to determine financial aid eligibility.
- What’s the FAFSA and Why Should You Care: Completing the FAFSA can help you earn federal financial aid.
Not filling out the FAFSA is one of the biggest college blunders to make! It’s money that helps pay for school.
- FAFSA Tips & Common Mistakes to Avoid: The best way to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is early, online or via the myStudentAid mobile app, and without any mistakes. The sooner you complete the FAFSA, the more aid you could be eligible for. The FAFSA typically opens on October 1 each year for the following academic year.
- Other financial aid applications: Depending on the college(s) your student applies to, there may be additional financial aid application requirements beyond the FAFSA. This might include the CSS Profile or supplemental forms a college may require. Be very aware of all financial aid application requirements.
- Scholarship awareness: Scholarships are another great way to find money to help pay for college. This process should be on the high school junior’s schedule, in addition to admissions and financial aid applications.
The biggest question most students have about financial aid is, “Will I be eligible?” If you have the desire to get an education, don’t let worries about finances be discouraging. With a little effort, you will find many options available to you.
Happy National Financial Aid Awareness Month! Remember that CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and making the best choice for your family. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.