Soon-to-be college students don’t think they qualify for financial aid. Believe me, I know. Speaking to high school seniors is a part of how I make my living.
A survey by Royall & Company confirmed everything I already knew. It found that only 37 percent of students believe they’re eligible for financial aid, which is better than their parents at 24 percent.
During the school year, I work for FSU Admissions as a tele-counselor, which basically means I get paid to talk to teenagers. We reach out to students who showed interest in FSU and talk to them about the college applications, the university, remind them of important deadlines, and impart hard-earned advice. And every shift I work, without fail, I speak to a senior who hasn’t applied for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
When I ask why they haven’t even attempted to get free financial aid, I’ve heard everything from:
“I forgot,” to…
“Eh, it’s a lot of work,” to…
But the answer I get hit with the most? “I figured my parents made too much money.”
That’s the problem. These students aren’t being educated on the FAFSA criteria and they’re counting themselves out, even when they’d qualify.
Over a quarter (27 percent) of students whose parents earn less than $60,000 per year don’t think they’re eligible, however, 84 percent of students whose household income is less than $60,000 receive Pell Grants.
What’s worse is that families with lower income are more uncomfortable when it comes to applying for FAFSA compared to their more affluent counterparts. It was found that 43 percent of those within the $60,000 or less bracket felt concerned about applying compared to just 16 percent of those who make $120,001 or more.
And it doesn’t take much to educate students on the topic. With just one year of providing students with precise, targeted messages about FAFSA, North Central College saw a 22 percent increase in financial aid form submissions.
Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but if I hadn’t filled out my FAFSA, I would’ve had to take out even more loans and owe even more money than I already do. Going off to college is stressful enough, so that bit of financial security definitely lightens the burden.
So if you know any high-schoolers, or better yet if you are one, learn all you can about financial aid and share that information with others. Money is out there for the taking – So take it.