Navigating the FAFSA: Nevada Union hosts Cash for College workshop
On the morning of Oct. 8, the Nevada Union cafeteria was abuzz with 77 parents and students ready to attack that scary and unknown “FAFSA application.” On hand to help guide them through the process were eight financial aid professionals including Veronica Nava (from Sac State’s financial aid office), Nevada Union High School counselors Dominie Wilhite and Marylou Brigham, Jim Griffin and Brandon Silveira, student assistants from the Sierra College financial aid office, and NJUHSD scholarship coordinator Barbara Ross. Anthony Barrios offered technical assistance.
Wilhite handled the coordination and preparation to present this workshop for local students, the second ever in western Nevada County. With the roll-out of Chromebooks to all our student population, Chromebooks were available for students attending to use during the event if they forgot theirs or if students from outside the school district attended. Wilhite began the morning’s workshop by sharing a detailed Power Point with specific informational tidbits before the parents and students were directed to begin their application.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the tool used for high school seniors and college students to determine their aid eligibility. Aid can be in the form of federal, state or college/university grants, loans, work study and scholarships. The information gleaned by the FAFSA is directed to the vocational schools, colleges and universities to which the student has indicated they have applied. This year, the FAFSA is available to complete and submit beginning Oct. 1. The deadline is March 2, or the earliest financial aid deadline for the colleges to which students apply.
Some students don’t fill out the FAFSA because of the misconception that they can’t get any financial aid if their parents earn too much, if their grade point average is too low or if they haven’t filed their taxes for 2016. This is not a valid reason for not applying. In fact, this year, the students will be submitting the FAFSA using the prior-prior taxes — 2015 federally filed taxes.
On a survey turned in as students and parents left the Cash for College Workshop, eight indicated they had completed and submitted the FAFSA, while 15 stated they had gotten some of the application done. If you have had a significant change from 2015 income, you will need to relay that to the financial aid offices of the colleges/institutions to which you have applied asking for a professional review and potential professional judgment.
“About 30 percent of the applicants will be required to verify their information,” said Nava of Sac State’s students.
If you are one of the students being verified, this information will go to the requesting institution and not to FAFSA.
For students and parents who missed the event, here are a few suggestions. For graduating high school seniors, go to fafsa.ed.gov and fill out a FAFSA before the earliest financial aid deadline of the colleges/universities for which you are applying or no later than March 2, 2017. For undocumented students, go to https://dream.csac.ca.gov/ and fill out the California Dream Act by March 2. Use the help box available for each section by placing the curser over the section in which you have a question. If the student’s parents are divorced, he/she should report the information of the parent with whom he/she lived with longer during the 12 months prior to the date he/she completes the application. Make sure you securely record your FSA ID login and password for easy retrieval when you are ready to complete and submit the FAFSA online.
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