(See the end of this article for a FREE offer from Do-Gooder Consulting. Click here to go to Do-Gooder Consulting's website.)
This year, New Year’s day falls on a Sunday. That may seem like a slow day at church, but we here at Do-Gooder Consulting want to challenge you to make it an outreach opportunity that can really benefit urban youth (and many others).
January 1st is the first day to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more popularly known as the FAFSA). The FAFSA is the primary application for college student aid from not only the federal government, but also state governments and other financial aid sources.
While everyone would like to go home on New Year’s Day (it’s a legal holiday!), it would actually be a perfect time to fill out the FAFSA.
You have to remember that financial aid is like pizza at a party – those who are there when the boxes open up get their choice of slices, and can return any extra food they don’t need. Those who wait while doing “important” things or think that their serving will be there for them when they need it will soon find out that they’ll be lucky if they get anchovies and crust.
And the pizza is getting taken earlier and earlier each year. For example, the state of Illinois has the MAP grant, which gives students up to $4,720 a year in grants. Traditionally, the deadline has been in mid August, when many colleges begin classes. But that has changed over the years, such that in 2011, the MAP grant ran out March 26, nearly a month before taxes were due.
Things are much different then when we might have filled out the FAFSA, back in the day. It was all paper back then, and they recommended that you filled out your taxes first. But as we see with the MAP grant example, that’s not practical anymore.
But it’s also something not to worry about, as things have changed for the better through technology. The FAFSA on the web, available at www.FAFSA.gov (note: this is NOT a .com; be wary of any site that wants you to pay to fill out the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid) helps students get at the head of the line for financial aid (as long as they have already applied –and have been accepted) to colleges where they are seeking aid.
Families who fill out the estimated FAFSA on January 1st will still have to update that information once they have completed 2011 taxes. But if the taxes were filed electronically (as they are in more and more homes through online programs, as well as services such as H&R Block), there is a new IRS Retrieval tool which will make updating the FAFSA much easier than in years past.
While the optimum candidate for filling out a FAFSA is of course a high school senior, there are two important groups of people to consider as well: returning college students, and adults who may only be considering going back to college.
With returning students, this should be a no-brainer. By filling out the FAFSA this early, they may find themselves eligible for grants and work study they missed out on last year because they waited to fill out the FAFSA or get accepted to college. And since they are home for Christmas break, you have no excuse to not wake them up by lunchtime and have them fill out the FAFSA.
With adults – they may not have considered going back to college. But by filling out the FAFSA, they open up an opportunity. Even if they haven’t been accepted yet, this will be an opportunity to get information on colleges, and open up possibilities that may have been written off in the past.
At worst, the family will waste between ½ hour to 1 ½ hours of time. At best, the family qualifies for thousands of dollars in aid.
While you might want to enjoy a day off (whether that Sunday and/or the next Monday, when many businesses are closed and parents have time available), you can do an incredible amount of good and gain thousands of dollars in aid by making a small time sacrifice.
To help struggling Chicago area ministries and nonprofits, Do-Gooder Consulting will provide free facilitation for the FAFSA after church on January 1st, as well as on Monday, January 2nd. Contact us for details (such as what is needed to host the session, opportunities for other ministries to share with you).
Do-Gooder Consulting also provides an affordable year-long consulting service that includes 3 seminars (The Financial Aid Process – for families; The College Going Process – for youth workers; FAFSA workshop – for families).
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 872-222-8008 for details on the free and paid services. We look forward to hearing from you. Find out more about us at www.do-gooder.us
And you can look forward to future blog posts in the near future on subjects such as “What is the FAFSA?”, “What’s the difference between grants and scholarships?” and other relevant college-going subjects. See you next time!