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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Your student needs to fill out the FAFSA -- NOW!!!

We at Do-Gooder Consulting really want to implore anyone with a student going to college - whether high school senior, returning student, or an adult even thinking about going to college - to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) NOW! Don’t wait! 

Back in our day, the FAFSA was filled out by hand. The financial aid officer also had to calculate by hand, which made the process long and strenuous. Any revisions would be equally as long , so it was suggested that students wait until taxes were done before submitting the FAFSA. That allowed families to make copies of tax forms, and provide accurate information. Financial aid programs like the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grant were able to provide money up until classes actually began.

However, technology, especially through the web and computers, has completely changed the process - for the better.  Using families can quickly input (and change) information.  Most people send their taxes in online, whether by using an application at home such as Turbo Tax, or going to a professional such as H & R Block, or even most independent accountants.  That information can then be easily downloaded via the IRS Retrieval Tool. That one click often replaces the photocopies and mailings and calls to the financial aid office of the past.

The downside of the technology upgrades is that since it makes it easier to fill out applications for financial aid, more people know about the opportunities and are rushing to take advantage of it.  We talked about the shrinking MAP deadlines in the past. Even though the state of Illinois is having problems now with disbursing MAP funds for the current year, in order to possibly funds for the next school year (2016-2017), Illinois residents need to fill out the FAFSA within the next week.

We previously wrote about MAP deadlines, with 2015 running out by approximately Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14). Below is our projections for when MAP money will run out not just for the upcoming school year, but the school year following.

In looking at the graphic, you may have noticed that our projection for the end of MAP money is the middle of this November. That’s because of some major changes with the FAFSA for the next school year. Do-Gooder Consulting documented these changes in an earlier blog.

There are some good reasons for this change.  The earlier deadline, which now coincides with many college application deadlines. This allows students to make a timely decision to see if a college is a good fit not just academically but also financially. See our graphic below for details on the need to have both a completed FAFSA
and a college application that is not just completed, but accepted by the college.

The main trouble will be for families who have returning students. They will think “Didn’t we just fill this out?”  And that feeling is justified, as it may have been 8 months or less when they filled out the FAFSA.  That is going to require a change in mindset. For years, Do-Gooder Consulting has advocated FAFSA completion sessions at the beginning of the year. We have worked with churches to do such a session following their service on the first Sunday of January.

Now, we encourage churches to hold such a session in October or if needed, November. Nonprofits can work with families with holding evening sessions, or also during the day if the families have Columbus Day or Veterans’ Day off.  It’s a huge shift in scheduling, and may conflict with other activities. But if going to - and graduating - college is a priority, then lifestyle changes need to be made.

So please, plan accordingly, so your student can get the best financial aid possible. If you are part of a church or nonprofit (or even business that wishes to maximize help for your employees, customers and their families), please contact us at Do-Gooder Consulting, and let’s see how we can work together for the best interest of students. We would be happy to help you organize a coalition of organizations to maximize resources and impact. Feel free to call or text Do-Gooder Consulting at 872-222-8008 or e-mail at

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