The dawn of a new year brings many things: a new list of resolutions we’ll inevitably break by February; cold temperatures (at least for those of us living in the Midwest); a seemingly endless parade of college football bowl games (and parades); and, wait for it … the opportunity to start the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Bust out the noisemakers, party hats and goofy 2012 glasses! Let’s all pretend to know all the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne as we sing along while swaying side to side! Let’s plant a smooch on www.fafsa.ed.gov because January 1 marks the date when we can officially start the process of submitting a FAFSA!
Why all the hoopla for this FAFSA, you ask? Well, the FAFSA is required to apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, loans and work-study. The FAFSA is also used to apply for most state and college aid, in addition to some private financial aid. The bottom line: most institutions use the FAFSA to help determine your bottom line—i.e., that which you and your family are expected to pay for the upcoming year to attend college—to attend their given institution.
At some colleges—Illinois Wesleyan included—an additional form is required to calculate a family’s financial aid. That additional form may be the CSS PROFILE (a financial aid application service of the College Board) or an institution-specific form. At IWU, we accept the CSS PROFILE as the second required form, but we also provide families with the option of completing the free Illinois Wesleyan Financial Aid Application. Deadlines for these forms vary by institution and their admissions-decisions processes (Early Decision candidates are required to submit a completed form earlier than those applying Early Action or Regular Decision). Make sure you check with your respective schools as to their specific deadlines. (FYI: Our recommended filing deadline is March 1.)
Admitted students who file for financial aid typically receive their financial aid proposals from their various schools in early spring. Keep in mind these need-based proposals will include and often build on any merit, talent-based, and other institutional scholarship already earned by the student. Remember that most education, employment and finance experts will tell you that getting the most out of your college investment isn’t about finding the most inexpensive option as much as finding the best value for what you and your family can afford.
Our hope on the college side is that we are able to provide financial assistance to the students who qualify and have a strong desire to be here, so that these students are able to anticipate and celebrate the first of May (or before, of course) like many of us do the first of January.