Feb 4, 2015

Fight FAFSA phobia

FAFSA phobia is a known, but easily treatable syndrome. It often begins with chronic fear of math or intentional avoidance of anything related to personal finances. Individuals who have never balanced a checkbook or filed their own taxes are particularly susceptible.

Each year, FAFSA phobia costs college-bound families millions in unclaimed federal dollars. This is because many families are in a state of denial about their eligibility for federal financial aid.  They’re frozen in place by a common misperception that only the poorest of the poor may qualify.

If you’re procrastinating or if you've come up against the proverbial FAFSA “wall,” try not to panic.  Help is available.  At this very moment, local associations of financial aid professionals are organizing a series of FREE FAFSA filing clinics scheduled to take place in virtually every corner of the country over the next two months.

In the DC metropolitan area, students and their families can participate in Super FAFSA Project events, sponsored by the Virginia Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (VASFAA), College Access Fairfax workshops sponsored by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), or College Goal Sunday, supported by independently-funded organizations in Maryland and many other states.

For the most part, Maryland or DC students are welcome to attend Virginia events, and Virginians are welcome to cross the river to attend events in Maryland. Just find a convenient date and location.  And considering institutional “priority” FAFSA filing deadlines, you may want to target some of the earlier dates.

Super FAFSA Project, Virginia
This year, the VASFAA will host a series of Super FAFSA Project events across the Commonwealth. While some events are closed to the public, many  have no restrictions on who may attend.
Participants should bring personal FAFSA PIN numbers (it's best to register in advance), Social Security numbers, driver’s license, income and tax records, bank and investment statements, and residency documents for noncitizens.
College Access Fairfax
College Access Fairfax together with the Fairfax County Public Schools scheduled 14 events in various locations around the county. All workshops are free and open to students and families from any high school, and some will provide on-site Spanish and/or Korean translation services.  
College Goal Sundays, Maryland
Eighteen College Goal Sundays remain on the schedule for February. At each site, FREE professional assistance will be available to help students and their families begin and hopefully complete the FAFSA filing process. In addition, there will be information on state-wide student services, admission requirements, and other financial aid resources. Although not required, participants are strongly encouraged to register in advance as computers, translators, and volunteers are limited. 
To complete the FAFSA process on-site, you will need to have your Social Security number, driver’s license, income and tax records, investment and bank statements, and your alien registration card if you are not a US citizen. Details are provided on the College Goal website.

Note that the Department of Education has put together a number of free FAFSA completion resources and many other organizations across the country have scheduled in-person events designed to support families in need of assistance with the forms. Before panicking, check these out.
If you’re suffering from FAFSA phobia, you’re not alone. Get help. It’s FREE, professional, and confidential.  

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