Rose Murphy: Financial aid for college |

Rose Murphy: Financial aid for college


One of the most important actions families can take to pay for college is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you, or your child, are thinking about attending a university, community college or trade school in the next year, the following information may be helpful.

Oct. 1 marks the first day families can access, complete and submit the 2022-2023 FAFSA Application. Some families will skip the application, but I would like to provide you with some essential reasons to not pass up the opportunity to fill out this free application for need-based aid. By filing the FAFSA as early as possible, more time is available to research options and create your college fund availability.

Not completing the FAFSA in a timely manner could be a costly mistake. Nearly all students who apply will qualify for some type of aid. By filing the FAFSA, and for resident undocumented students, a CA Dream Act application, students may be offered government grants, low-interest loans as well as scholarships.

No matter the family’s financial situation, students will qualify for the Direct Federal Subsidized Loans through completing the FAFSA. The current Direct Federal Loan has a fixed interest rate for the life of each loan based on the year it is issued. Cal Grants are available to CA students who meet certain GPA and income requirements. Some students will receive funds that will fully cover their tuition at UCs, CSUs or community colleges. State and federal aid can generally be used to pay for tuition and living expenses at four-year universities, community colleges or trade schools.

Work study is also a benefit because the student can earn income while attending college. A student must complete the FAFSA to qualify for this option. Work study is usually on-campus, accommodates the student’s schedule, and matched to the student’s skills and interests.

The California Promise Grant has provided many benefits to students who attend community college. You may have heard of free tuition at Sierra College. Are there requirements for this? Yes, one of the requirements is to complete the FAFSA!

If a student does not submit the FAFSA, colleges may wait until after the deadline before they provide award letters. The deadline to submit the application varies from college to college. Missing these deadlines could jeopardize the student’s eligibility for aid. Some scholarships offered by organizations or institutions will request FAFSA information. Students could miss out on institutional-based scholarships if the application was not completed or delayed. For those planning to apply during the early decision or action rounds, these financial aid deadlines are often Nov. 1 or 15.

It is easy to submit your tax return using the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The retrieval tool will auto-populate your tax information into digital form. This assists in making it easier to complete the application and prevents mistakes. For those concerned with using the DRT submitting tax returns in an acceptable alternative.

It is helpful if students have a list of the colleges they will be applying to; ten schools can be listed on the FAFSA. The information will be sent directly to each financial aid office. The office at these institutions will then create a financial aid “package”. Students should list a state school first, in case they are offered state-based aid on a priority basis. Students can add or change schools to the FAFSA at a later date, as well. However, it is important to change the school names as soon as possible, as university grants run do out.

There is no age limit for receiving federal financial aid. If you are over the age of 24 and planning to attend a post-secondary school, it is in your best interest to complete the FAFSA.

Families can create a Federal Student Aid account by setting up a username and password. Each student and one of the parents will need their own FSA account (FSA ID). Both parents and students will need social security numbers.

If your family has received a reduction in income since the 2020 tax year contact the financial aid office at the colleges where your child is applying. Schools have the ability to assess your situation and adjust awards.

The CA mandate to have all seniors complete the FAFSA in their senior year will go into effect (most likely) in the 2022-2023 school year. This was added to the CA budget package in hopes that it would encourage all high school students to consider continuing their studies.

FAFSA provides free resources at

Rose Murphy is a retired high school counselor now working as an independent educational consultant. She can be reached at or

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