Financial aid is always a tricky business. There are so many questions surrounding the process: How do I apply? When are the deadlines? How do I complete the FAFSA? And what if you didn’t apply last year? Some students may be concerned about their chances of receiving financial aid awards if they didn’t apply for them the year before.
You can still apply even if you didn’t apply for financial aid last year
Even if you didn’t apply for financial aid for your first year of college, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be looking out for next year. Most scholarships are based on whether or not you have financial need, although you will find merit-based awards. In addition to that, many scholarships have criteria for who can apply to them. Some might specifically say that they are only for incoming freshmen, so those would no longer be available to you.
On the flip side, there are scholarships and grants that you cannot apply for until you’re a sophomore or junior in college. Perhaps you can only apply for now because you’ve joined Greek life or a specific program or club. You might also have to wait until after your first year to apply to major-specific scholarships and grants. This is because some schools don’t allow you to officially declare your major until the end of your freshman year. Regardless, there will be scholarships, grants, and financial aid available to you even if you aren’t a freshman in college anymore.
File your FAFSA
If you didn’t apply for financial aid because you didn’t fill out your FAFSA last year, please try completing it this year. You might be surprised what doors it opens for you, even if it’s just a small amount from your school or the government. Any amount of aid will ultimately lessen how much you owe. Outside scholarships and grants also often require a FAFSA for their applications, which makes filling out that form extremely useful. Not applying or receiving financial aid last year should not affect your chances for receiving aid next year. You just need to make sure you allocate some time to scholarship and grant searches during your fall semester and winter break. And remember, the earlier you fill out your FAFSA, the better.
Regardless of your financial situation, apply anyway!
One thing to bear in mind is that family financial situations change. A parent can lose a job or get a promotion (or demotion). You can file for yourself as independently paying for college. Someone can be hospitalized, or one of your siblings could be entering college. That means you may become more or less eligible for aid from year to year. It could be that you didn’t really need much in the way of financial aid last year, but you do now. Never be afraid to apply for aid; remember, there are millions of dollars that go unclaimed every year. You never know until you try.
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