A Pirate’s Guide to FAFSA and Other Resources
Welcome Aboard, Matey!
As a low-income, first-generation college student, I am familiar with the confusion and frustration of filling out FAFSA application forms and the guilt that comes with ever-increasing student debt. However, to think of us, underprivileged students, as bewildered seems unfitting, almost insulting. Furthermore, discussing matters as complex as FAFSA often confuses those who have never applied before. Instead, let’s change our perspective and imagine ourselves as pirates navigating unexplored territories with the promise of treasure.
Alas, college application season is upon us. Ahoy, my fellow low-income students and parents, a call for action beckon both! The dreaded FAFSA application looms in the dark, uncharted waters known as the college application process. I know facing this beast head-on seems like a daunting task that only an elite few may tackle with ease, but fear not, I am here to act as a guide.
Batten down the hatches, and let’s get your sea legs adjusted. The first step in completing your FAFSA application is understanding what FAFSA is. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form you need to fill out to get any financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. Submitting the FAFSA is the most important thing you can do if you want financial assistance. You automatically qualify for a low-interest federal loan when you submit FAFSA. These loans are less expensive to pay back than many private student loans. Each year, over 13 million students who file the FAFSA receive more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Education. The FAFSA asks for information about you and your family finances, including tax returns, so you may need a parent’s help completing it or help your student complete it.
Savvy? Now, weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen. It’s time to set sail! There are three ways to fill out FAFSA: online at ed.gov, with the myStudentAid app, or printing and filling out a FAFSA form, then mailing it to the address on the form. NSTEM recommends filling out the FAFSA online or through the app. Both options offer tips to help you understand the questions, making them a lot easier to fill out and submit. The National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrators and the Office of the U.S. Department of Education also have insightful tips on increasing eligibility for necessary financial assistance. You can file as early as October 1 for the following academic year. It’s a good idea to apply as soon as possible because financial aid is often given out on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also three types of FAFSA deadlines: college, state, and federal. The federal is June 30, the last day you can apply for federal aid for the following academic year.
No Prey, No Pay!
No prey, no pay! Don’t hang a jib, lass! Perhaps you didn’t receive as much financial aid as you anticipated. Fear not, for there are plenty of other resources low-income students can utilize if need be. Many organizations have dedicated themselves to supporting the financial needs of low-income youth who wish to attend college. These organizations work to ensure that those with low-income backgrounds won’t be looked over or treated unfairly when it comes to education by working with students to create plans, finding scholarship opportunities, rewarding good grades, and advocating for equal opportunity. College Raptor has compiled a comprehensive list of a few organizations that have had notable success in providing students with the necessary funds to pursue their dreams. EduMed takes this even further by providing separate categories designated to an aspect of life a student may need financial aid. For example, resources for books and study material, food and family services, and even student housing. Blimey!
X Marks the Spot
Land ho! I hope an old seadog like myself succeeded in steering ye in the right direction to the promised treasure of FAFSA. Perhaps you took advantage of other resources as well and added to your mountain of treasure. A word of advice to you scallywags: treat the college application process as if you were a pirate searching for gold (well, of course, I mean you are in a way!). As someone who has recently undergone the same process, I know it can be confusing at times, and the jargon might parallel the treacherous seas obstructing your path from the gold, but there are plenty of resources and organizations willing to help you navigate them. Now get going before I make ye walk the plank!
Written by: Alexandra Sugatan
Date: September 6, 2021