FAFSA to provide more scholarships for seniors


Nicole Schroeder

art by Stephanie Kang
With a majority of college application deadlines having passed, many students in the graduating class have been spending their spare time since the beginning of second semester rushing to fill out various scholarship applications for the 2016-17 school year before their upcoming deadlines in the next few months.
Along with the list of community scholarships provided by the RBHS guidance department and the various school-specific scholarships available to students, however, another financial aid opportunity, the 2016 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), has now also been made available to students across the United States. The FAFSA is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, for which the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office released the application on the first of the year.
The FAFSA is an opportunity for students to apply for federal funding toward post-graduation schooling, which is provided based on the financial need of the student and the student’s family.
Guidance counselor Gretchen Cleppe said the form is an important one for all students to fill out regardless of perceived need, however, as students might be eligible for money even if they don’t expect to be.
It is for everyone.There is no financial aid cutoff. And, some scholarships require you to fill it out, like [the A+ scholarship program],” Cleppe said. “One of the most interesting things was that they recommend getting the FAFSA ID right away and get going filling things out for the FAFSA. You will not be able to finish until you have your 2015 taxes completed. However, you can get going now even if your taxes are not complete.”
Some students, like senior Javan Whitney-Warner, have already filled out the FAFSA application with last year’s tax information and plan to simply update the information after their 2015 taxes are completed. Whitney-Warner said she filled the application out already, as the financial aid it will provide will help her greatly in paying for college next year.
[Filling out the FAFSA] is required to receive financial aid, which is absolutely necessary for me going to college,” Whitney-Warner said. “I can’t receive my scholarship if I don’t fill it out.”
For those students who worry filling out the FAFSA may be difficult, the CPS school district will also be hosting FAFSA Frenzy events throughout the month of February at Battle High School, Hickman High School, and the Columbia Area Career Center. Senior Molly Sparkes said she plans on waiting to fill out the FAFSA until one of these events so she is sure she fills out the application correctly.
I think FAFSA frenzy is important for people like me who don’t know a lot about money or applications and need someone to walk me through it,” Sparkes said. “It helps take pressure and stress off of seniors who already have so much on our plate [to have] someone who is really experienced there to walk you through it.”
For those students not planning on attending a FAFSA Frenzy event, Whitney-Warner said she recommends filling out the application ahead of time, as certain sections of the application might require help from a student’s parents or the creation of an electronic signature.
“I don’t think it was difficult at all, at least the financial part, because it let me skip almost all the questions,” Whitney-Warner said. “[The most difficult part] was probably just filling in all the other information. Registering for an FSA ID [also] took a silly amount of time and was very touchy with the window on how long it could be open without expiring, and not letting you go back without shutting out your session for identity security reasons.”
As for the students who will begin the process of filling out college and scholarship applications in the coming years, Sparkes said it is important to simply ask adults for help when you need it. She said most often, they will be able to help you out with anything you might be struggling with in the application process.
“Ask questions. Ask your teachers, parents, counselors, college reps. All questions that you don’t even care the answer to,” Sparkes said. “Lastly, don’t freak out about this stuff because we’re all in this together, and if you mess something up, there’s probably hundreds of people who made the same mistake, which means there’s probably an easy solution.”