Infowire: Make a New Year's resolution to turn in your FAFSA
Infowire fills the information gap and meets the news needs of families struggling to make ends meet. This is a quick Infowire for anybody interested in going to college next year, because you've got a deadline coming up.
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You can hear plenty of people routinely say their dog or cat, or maybe even car, is their "baby." But Greg Little might be the only person who says his baby is a college financial aid presentation 105 Power Point slides long. He's been giving a version of the presentation for about 18 years.
Little works at Baker College, which is where he went to school. He was a financial aid director there for over a decade. When he moved up the ladder to another job in the administration, he made sure he could still give those financial aid presentations to high schoolers and their parents across the state – for free, by the way. He says he does it because "it's a community service."
If Little were giving a presentation right now, the first thing he might tell you is that you can file your FAFSA really soon. Anybody who wants to go to college in 2015 can file their FAFSA starting Jan. 1.
More than 80% of students get some kind of financial aid. It makes sense to beat the rush.
- Plain and simple, fill out a FAFSA if you want financial aid for college. The federal government and most schools use that application to figure out who qualifies for a lot of different grants, loans, and even work study. Little says a lot of schools have some pots of money they dole out on a first-come, first-served basis, and that it makes sense to beat the rush. Little says the application only takes about 15 minutes.
- Pro tip: Don't wait to fill out the form until after you or your parents have done taxes. Estimate that part and then correct your FAFSA later.
What if you're not really getting any help from your parents?
- There are 13 questions on the FAFSA used to determine if a college student is dependent on their parents and would need to include parental financial information on the FAFSA (this handy infographic can walk you though those questions).
- College financial aid counselors can override the dependency determination on the FAFSA. Little says financial aid officials will probably ask for some evidence that a student can't expect support from their parents, or can't get financial aid information from their parent. He's used letters from high school guidance counselors for example, as that evidence.
There's a lot more to know, so ask questions.
The financial aid presentation Little gives at high schools usually lasts almost two hours. College is getting ever more expensive. Even though it's still a good investment, it's also usually a big financial burden. So ask lots of questions of your financial aid counselors to help you make informed decisions.
There are independent "consultants" or "experts" who charge to walk through a FAFSA or the college financial aid process.
Greg Little has offered to share his expertise with any Infowire reader, for free.
He says he's always happy to offer his help and thinks most financial aid counselors at colleges everywhere feel the same way. He says he doesn't do it to get more students to go to Baker College and he doesn't do it to make money. Little offers his time because he really believes in the power of a college education.
He just wants more people to go to college.
Thanks to Greg Little for being so willing to help students and families through this process. If you want to get in touch with him you can reach him at Baker College in Owosso at (989) 729-3430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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