Think outside the box: Financial Aid Resources
Financial Aid: 1/17/17
Between now and the March 15 deadline, many seniors across the country are focused on one thing: completing the FAFSA.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and they really mean FREE. Many dishonest folks make their money by tricking students into paying money for help with what should be a completely free resource. Do not pay anyone to help you with the FAFSA!
Completing the FAFSA is the first step to ensuring any need-based financial aid (as compared to earned aid, in the form of merit scholarships, etc). Not only is the FAFSA used to determine how many federal grants and loans a student will receive, many individual colleges use the FAFSA to determine how to distribute institutional need-based scholarships.
Perhaps your parents have questions about FAFSA, but can’t make it to your school during a time when your counselor is available? Don’t fret. So many people are eager to help with the FAFSA, it would be impossible to create a list of all of the resources available. Here are a few you might not have thought of:
- Texas College Access Network FAFSA Events
Visit texascollegeaccess.org/texas_fafsa_events in order to see a list of FAFSA workshops in your area, most held on nights and weekends, to assist your family.
- School-wide FAFSA workshops
Yours or a neighboring school might have a weekend workshop where your parents are encouraged to bring tax documents and receive guidance in filling out the FAFSA. Ask your counselor or representatives from peer-mentoring organizations such as GenTX or a GO Center to find out about events nearby.
- Local Community Colleges
Community colleges have many wonderful services, and one of these is often a FAFSA workshop. It is in a community college’s best interest for potential and current students to get the most funding possible. Be in touch with the financial aid office at your town’s community college to find out about upcoming opportunities.
- Non-profits such as Foundation Communities
Many non-profits focused on college access, tax and financial assistance, and community building want to help your family with the FAFSA. Ask your counselor about these resources.
If you’re in the Central Texas area, Foundation Communities is a non-profit organization that holds free workshops to help families complete the FAFSA. Learn more here.
Some families may consider accepting help from tax-preparation services, such as HR Block. This service is NOT free, so it is not the best fit service for most families. However, if your parents already use a tax preparation service, it is likely these companies can help you to fill out your financial aid forms as well. Again, filling out the FAFSA should be FREE, so do not pay extra for this service.
If you cannot make it to receive help at any of the above services, don’t let yourself feel daunted! The FAFSA website is set up to be as straightforward and helpful as possible. You can chat with staff directly from the website, and get help from pop-up windows and “Help and Hints” sidebars along the way.
Texas OnCourse wishes you the best in tackling this important step in the path to your future!