Turns out February is brimming with causes to champion, figures to celebrate, and events to attend. A certain weather-prognosticating rodent, a winged, arrow-wielding emissary of affection and a couple of dead presidents’ birthdays get most of the press, which is a shame because they divert our national attention from such solemn and consequential observances as National Grapefruit Month, International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day (especially relevant in this global era), and the Great Backyard Bird Count. Nearer to my own heart, there’s National Fettuccine Alfredo Day, the Day the Music Died (Buddy Holly’s loss was tragic, the Big Bopper . . . maybe not so much) and, best of all, Financial Aid Awareness Month. With so many worthy avenues to explore in February, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I myself was deeply torn between discussing fettuccine or financial aid in this post. If it were a few days earlier, you would be reading a different, cheesier story right now, but since Fettuccine Alfredo Day (February 7th) is technically in the past, let’s take a look at Financial Aid Awareness Month.
Certainly, one of the primary messages of Financial Aid Awareness Month is that students and their families should file the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). At Saint Rose, financial aid eligibility for the Summer 2012, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters is determined by your completion of the new 2012-2013 FAFSA. Each year, the new FAFSA can be completed after January 1st. Stay tuned for blog post in the next couple weeks with more information on completing the new ’12-’13 FAFSA. In the meantime, let’s start by addressing a few common FAFSA misconceptions that I hear from Saint Rose students and their families.
- Misconception #1 – “I thought I already filed the FAFSA last year?” You probably did! Unfortunately, you have to file it again. Many freshman and their parents aren’t aware that you must file a new FAFSA each year. It’s OK, you’re new at this.
- Misconception#2 – “I can’t file the FAFSA until I finish my taxes.” Yes, the ’12-’13 FAFSA will collect financial information that will be listed on your 2011 Federal income tax return, but remember that you can estimate this information if you haven’t filed your 2011 tax returns yet. After you file, if your estimates prove to be inaccurate, you can simply go back and revise your FAFSA and make corrections.
- Misconception #3 – “There’s No Point In Filing the FAFSA, I Don’t Qualify For Anything.” The short answer here is that you never know. The FAFSA is easier to complete than ever before. It’s always worth filing to see what you will qualify for. Things change from year to year. Even if you do not qualify for need-based financial aid, most students will have to consider at least some borrowing in order to pay for their education and the first choice for student loans, before turning to private education loans, should be the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans offered through the Department of Education. In order to borrow Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans you need to . . . file the FAFSA.
From now until February 25th the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) is helping students and their families complete the FAFSA via a great website at StartHereGetThere.org. For the rest of February, HESC also has a toll free FAFSA hotline at 1-800-808-1790, which is open every Tuesday and Thursday between noon and 5:00 PM.
Lastly, beyond the FAFSA, Financial Aid Awareness Month is a great time to learn more about your current financial aid package, explore further options and refine your plan for paying for your education. You can find a lot of helpful information at MappingYourFuture.org. If you have any questions, or if you just want to bring in balloons and cake to celebrate Financial Aid Awareness Month, come see us in the Solution Center. Actually, it would be better if you could bring fettuccini alfredo . . .