GALION — October 1 is the kickoff for college-aid application season, a window of time for Ohio students and their families to submit information that can lead to financial grants, scholarship and other forms of aid to make their college dreams possible. While that window is open until June 31 next year, it’s important to begin the application process now.
Regardless of the college or university a student has chosen, that process begins with The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, an online application form on which the student or student’s family can show their financial situation and how they may merit assistance for some or all college costs in the 2021-2022 academic year.
“Knowing the ins and outs of the annual application process has always been important, but it’s doubly essential in this year of COVID-19, when so many Ohio families have taken a financial hit,” says Kirsten Crotte, director of student financial aid at Otterbein University. She offers some important tips to get the process started.
DO fill out and submit the online FAFSA form, accessed at studentaid.gov. The application is free and there are step-by-step directions and other online help and to make the process go smoothly. If the student is dependent on family support, which is often the case, both the student and a parent will need to complete the FAFSA, so allow time for both to provide their input.
DON’T delay. While the deadline to submit your FAFSA extends through June 2021, there’s every good reason to file as soon as possible. Some schools award aid on a first-requested basis, so your chances may be increased by filing early. The FAFSA is used by all accredited institutions of college education to award federal aid. Plus in Ohio and many other states the FAFSA is also used to award state-supported aid and other forms of assistance.
DO lay it on the line. Be sure to let financial aid officers know about specific economic pressures facing your family, particularly if things have changed in the past year. “Telling a college about your special circumstance could mean the difference between starting classes next year or putting those plans on hold,” says Otterbein’s Crotte. “The FAFSA process allows for an appeal that can adjust for sudden changes in a family’s financial circumstances due to job loss, medical bills or other difficulties that aren’t shown on your initial application.”
DON’T leave money sitting on the table. Amazingly, many Ohio students and their families fail to submit a FAFSA, leaving millions of dollars in federal and state college aid to go unclaimed. Across the nation last year, more than $3 billion was left on the table, either because families weren’t aware of the FAFSA or they somehow neglected to submit their application on time.
DO be certain to ask for help. Don’t be shy. If you need help or have questions, the FAFSA website is full of information. You can also contact the financial aid office at the college or university you’ve selected. They’ll be will be happy to work with you or direct you to other resources.