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Top 3 things to know about applying for financial aid in 2016-2017

November 1, 2016

Getting money to go to college is a huge part of the college going process; students and families are often unfamiliar with how to apply for financial aid or if they even qualify to receive financial assistance. As part of Education Opens Doors’ Roadmap to Success program, we support students as they learn the college application and financial aid process. Our curriculum equips students with the knowledge and tools to explore different paths to paying for college. In our “Paying For College” unit, students look specifically at financial options that are available to them.

The college-going process is constantly changing, and we are committed to providing the most up-to-date information to our students. Here are some quick tips to navigate the process this year!

  1. You have a really good chance of receiving money.

 

According to NCAN, almost all students would receive money for college if they applied. Students have an 85% chance of receiving some kind of financial aid.

 

Last year, over $2.7 BILLION was left over–no one claimed it. That’s a huge opportunity for students to take advantage of money for college.

 

92% of applicants from low-income households receive grant money– money that does not have to be repaid (see more below).

 

  1. Not all money is equal.

 

The FAFSA is the application to receive federal funding for college. It includes:

 

Grants: DO NOT have to be repaid.

 

Loans: DO have to be repaid. Usually have lower interest rates than private loans.

 

Work-study: Work program through your school to earn money while in college.

 

Most students receive some combination of the above; you might receive a grant and a loan offer, or a grant and work-study, or all three. You can choose whether or not to accept each kind of financial aid, or the entire package.

 

  1. You can apply now.

 

This year, the FAFSA opened on October 1! You can apply much earlier for federal aid, and the earlier you apply, the better your chances are of receiving aid.

 

Want more info?

 

There are tons of resources out there for students and families to access, whether that is one-on-one with a college counselor at your school or online. A new resource launched this year is Form Your Future, a great online resource specifically focused on the FAFSA.

 

I’m ready now! What do I need?

 

Head over to https://fafsa.ed.gov with a copy of your tax returns from last year (that’s 2015). Here’s a quick list of what you need—students, note that you will need most of this information for both you and your parents!

 

Your Social Security Number

 

Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

 

Your most recent federal income tax returns*, W-2s, and other records of money earned.

 

Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)

 

Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

 

*Note that the FAFSA recently made a change, and you can use last year’s tax returns– enabling you to complete the FAFSA earlier!

 

Finding money for college can be intimidating, but there are tons of resources out there to help you maximize the amount of money you can get to help you get to and through college. Education Opens Doors is committed to preparing our students to tackle not only the college admissions process, but the financial process as well. Through our entire unit dedicated to pursuing financial aid, we support our students who are exploring the different options available to them. We are constantly on the lookout for up-to-date information and opportunities we can share with our students.

 

The college-going process might seem overwhelming at times, but by providing students with a solid foundation of knowledge around paying for college, we ensure that they are aware of the multitude of options that are available and prepared to pursue them.

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