You hear it time and time again during your senior year of high school: Complete your FAFSA! They’re not saying it idly. Every year, thousands of dollars are left unused by college students not aware that they qualify for federal financial aid. Many don’t bother to apply thinking they simply won’t qualify, their parents make too much money, or that it just isn’t worth it. That isn’t further from the truth.
Here’s a quick look at some of the interesting stats surrounding the FAFSA:
How Many Applied
Every year and application cycle is different, but in the 2015 and 2016 FAFSA application cycle (quarters 1 through 6), 19,757,764 total applications were received. Most applicants were 19 to 24 years old, but 25 and older weren’t far behind. A majority of the applications received were also prior to the first year of college (4.7 million), but these numbers go to show that you should always complete your FAFSA, whether you’re a senior in college or after your graduate degree.
Another interesting way to look at it is by state. In the 3rd quarter of the 2017 – 2018 application cycle, California saw the most processed applications: 341,774. This resulted in a year to date award total of $1,896,370 in that state alone! Texas wasn’t far behind with 338,816 applications received and $1,175,779 being awarded year to date.
How Many Didn’t Apply
Recent studies found that about 1 in 5 students don’t apply for financial aid at all. Around 30% of these didn’t apply since they were going to a 2 year college, but another 18% were heading towards a 4 year school. No matter the college you’re attending, you may still qualify for financial aid!
Most students didn’t complete their FAFSA because they believed they were either ineligible or would pay for school without aid. 33% also didn’t want to be in debt. However, FAFSA goes beyond loans. Many schools use the forms to determine their own aid, scholarships, and grants. Even if you’re not happy with what the federal government offers you, there may be a better offer from your school. Grants and scholarships don’t need to be paid back either!
In 2014, nearly 1.5 million high school graduates didn’t complete their FAFSA. In Utah alone, 70% of eligible high school graduates didn’t bother to turn in the application.
What Is Left on the Table
When students don’t complete the FAFSA, money is left on the table. Take the Pell Grant offered by the federal government for example. The average amount that went unclaimed per eligible student was nearly $2,000. Mississippi, Washington D.C., Arizona, New York, Idaho, Florida, and a number of other states had students leave over $2,000 behind each when it came to the Pell Grant. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that extra money?
70% of students attending a 4 year college receive federal aid, but if you don’t apply, there’s only a very small chance you’ll get any assistance from your school. FAFSA is for more than just loans and if you’re not applying, you could be leaving free money on the table.
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