FAFSA can broaden student opportunities; make college financially feasible
In the midst of midterms, attending fall classes, registering for winter term classes and other daily tasks, the last thing many students want to think about is next year’s financial aid and scholarships, but it is vital to students who need or want financial aid, scholarships and grants.
The earlier students fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA and Office of Student Access and Completion, OSAC, forms, the more opportunities they have to receive scholarships for the following 2022 to 2023 school year.
UCC’s Financial Aid Specialist, Ben Horvath said, “It is important to submit the FAFSA application as soon as possible because there are some grants that can become exhausted after the application opens. So, the quicker you apply, the more possibilities of eligible grants you will receive.”
Students tend to think of financial aid and FAFSA as the same thing, but they are two separate things that work together, Horvath said.
“Financial aid offices at both community colleges and universities use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for financial aid that includes grants, federal work-study programs and student loans,” Horvath, in an email interview, said. FAFSA is the entryway to most types of financial aid.
Some students think that because their parents or they themselves make too much money, FAFSA doesn’t apply to them, but that can lead to missing out on school funding opportunities.
“When it comes to financial aid and scholarships, don’t assume you won’t qualify. Start with the FAFSA and see which financial aid packages are offered to you,” Horvath said. “Even if you think you make too much money for financial aid, you should still take the time to complete the FAFSA because a lot of scholarship applications require a FAFSA to be completed to get an idea of a student’s financial need.”
FAFSA is a time-consuming process, though, so putting it off may lead to more stress or incomplete applications. There is no way around a FAFSA application for most scholarships or grants.
Filling out FAFSA forms allows students access to other applications such as grants and scholarships; students do not have to pay back this money.
Unlike FAFSA, the OSAC is not a requirement for basic financial aid; however, it is required for many of the scholarships and grants a college offers. Students must fill out their FAFSA before completing the OSAC. “The OSAC uses the expected family contribution from the FAFSA to know what the eligible student’s financial need would be. FAFSA does not offer scholarships like OSAC does, but once again the financial need is considered when it comes to applying for scholarships as well,” Horvath said.
Although some scholarships are based on financial history, not all are. However, even non-need-based scholarships often require the OSAC.
UCC knows how stressful and time-consuming these forms can be. To prevent student stress and procrastination, Horvath offers weekly one-on-one Zoom meetings for any questions students may have regarding FAFSA. These meetings are held each Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m. To sign up for a Zoom meeting, students must fill out a simple form (see the link). Once students complete this form, the webpage will guide them to the Zoom meeting.
UCC Foundation Scholarships
UCC offers scholarships through the UCC Foundation. For students to be eligible for these scholarships, they must first complete the FAFSA application.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know that UCC had a scholarship program. One day at work, one of my coworkers informed me that her son would be applying for scholarships, and I work at a job not related to school,” UCC student Peyton Manning, in an email interview, said. “Thankfully, I was able to fill out the scholarship application questions before the deadline, and that has led me to receive a very generous scholarship toward engineering.”
On the UCC Foundation webpage’s scholarship dashboard, students can apply for a certain amount of scholarships, but that does not mean students will be limited to those they applied for.
“I received another scholarship through the UCC scholarship program that I hadn’t applied for. Honey McNamara (scholarship and donor relations coordinator) explained to me over email that there are many ways, even unexpected occurrences, that the scholarship board will award those scholarships outside their normal processes to students who don’t apply for them,” Manning said.
There is no harm in applying for everything that you can even though you may not be awarded every opportunity. Horvath said, “You have nothing to lose by applying. Just fill out the FAFSA application. There’s the very real possibility that if you think you’re not going to qualify for anything, so you don’t bother applying, you might be missing out on something that you could have received if you would’ve applied.”
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