Don’t let a scary ‘monster’ stop you from getting money for college! | MCTC

Don’t let a scary ‘monster’ stop you from getting money for college!

February 23, 2021
Commentary by Keith Kappes

It must be scarier than zombies or other nasty creatures we see on TV or in video games. It is so terrifying that more college-age students are avoiding any contact with it, even from the safety of their own computer.

No, it’s not a virus. You don’t have to wear a mask when you are close to it. Are you sure you’re ready to discover its identity?

This monster that some apparently want to avoid at all costs is called the FAFSA!

Wait a minute! That’s not a monster. It’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form required by federal and state governments and many colleges for those students seeking financial aid or federal work study jobs.

I confess that I created this silly monster analogy because of the scary news that FAFSA submissions are down by 20 percent this year. Many prospective college students and their families are saying the FAFSA is too complicated to complete, even online.

That’s a shame because more than $2.5 billion in student aid went unused last year because student applicants didn’t file the FAFSA.

Other than scholarships, financial aid is the best way to pay for school and it's not just for those who can demonstrate financial need. The FAFSA application asks questions about a student’s personal and family financial circumstances but that’s because federal law requires a determination of how much they can pay for college.

You may be thinking the FAFSA is a waste of time since you won’t qualify for need-based aid. The FAFSA is the first step in determining eligibility for both Federal and state aid, and many scholarships.  Funding your education begins with the FAFSA.

Yes, the FAFSA is complicated, even burdensome, but that is changing. The good news is that the number of questions will be reduced by nearly 70 percent. A major issue, the income verification process, will be handled totally by the IRS.

The not-so-good news is that the FAFSA improvements won’t take effect until July 2023 for the 2023-2024 academic year. That means we will have to do our best to work with the current edition until then.

Plenty of help is available online and at most colleges, including Maysville Community and Technical College. I suggest you file online as early as possible and that you use the FAFSA checklist.

To help you keep this imaginary “monster” at bay, I’m sharing a list of the 10 most common FAFSA mistakes. Please be aware of each as you complete the FAFSA and begin or continue your college career.

  1. Leaving a field blank.
  2. Not using the 1040 federal tax return for income and tax reporting.
  3. Forgetting to report all the required sources of untaxed income.
  4. Not reporting both parents’ financial information If they are divorced.
  5. Excluding yourself from household size.
  6. Not signing the application.
  7. Filing late.
  8. Not knowing your state’s financial aid deadline.
  9. Skimming questions or dismissing directions.
  10. Failing to create your FSA ID before you start the form.

The Financial Aid team at MCTC is here to help you. Make an appointment today at the campus nearest you.

(Keith Kappes is MCTC’s community relations liaison and the father of eight former college students, all of whom benefitted from filing the FAFSA each year.)