The FAFSA is a dreaded form, a torturous experience according to some. From January 1st to March 1st, I live, breathe, eat, and exude the FAFSA. While it can be the ultimate stumbling block for students, it can also be a huge relief. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, not only does it put a student in for federal aid, it also puts them in for state based and institutional need based aid. I could sing hymns about the joy of seeing a Pell Grant in a student’s financial aid package. I have been known to do happy dances when helping families complete the FAFSA and it shows they will likely qualify for the Pell. It has freaked out a few but most get caught up in the enthusiasm.
We can talk about the joys and benefits of a college education but for so many students the cost and sticker shock is an insurmountable barrier. Even a community college education with a drastically lower sticker price can send students and their families into a tail-spin. Completing the FAFSA is one of the best indicators that a student will attend college.
This past weekend was College Goal Saturday, a nationwide initiative to get students and their families the help they need to complete the FAFSA. Our local community college hosted it and I was pleased as punch to help out. A student and a family member came in to get help filing their FAFSA. I can assure you, I didn’t wave a magic wand or do anything extraordinary. I helped them complete a daunting form, explained things when they had questions, and talked to them about what was coming next year for the student.
She already qualified for TIP (Tuition Incentive Program) so tuition and fees were covered. The student has a legal guardian and was considered independent for the purposes of the FAFSA. She will likely qualify for the Pell Grant. After I had explained everything it could be used to cover such as books, gas money, and food the relative began to get a little misty-eyed. Respecting their moment, I excused myself. What I didn’t expect was for both the relative and student to come and give me hugs on their way out. Or, the relative whispering “You don’t know how much this means” into my ear as she did so. That’s when I got a little misty-eyed myself. For so many families there are amazing resources out there to help them but if they don’t know about them or how to access them it’s a moot point.
Every adviser has a similar story, students and families so thankful for our help navigating the college-going process. It’s the greatest part of the job, making a connection with them to help make their dreams a reality. This job gives you that opportunity every single day.
College Advisers at College Goal Sunday!