Students deal with a lot of acronyms: ACT, SAT, GPA. But when it comes to paying for college, the most important acronym is FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
You have to complete the FAFSA each year to access need-based aid at colleges and universities in the United States, including Pell Grants, direct federal student loans and work-study. The application for the 2023-24 academic year opened on Oct. 1, 2022, and runs through June 20, 2024.
The earlier you fill out the FAFSA, the better. States and schools have a limited amount of aid to offer, and some offer it on a first-come, first-served basis. You also have a better chance of landing federal, state, and college-based grants
if you file early.
The high school Class of 2021 completed 4.8 percent fewer FAFSAs than the Class of 2020—about 102,000 fewer seniors. The pandemic undoubtedly played a role; with many schools employing remote learning, students had fewer
interactions with teachers and counselors, and some students lacked access to a computer or the internet to complete the form.
Even in a “normal” year, filling out the FAFSA can be intimidating. Here are some tips:
Be prepared. You can save time by gathering needed documents before you start, including your Social Security number, W-2 forms from two prior years, a record of any untaxed income for two years prior, and documentation
of any scholarships, grants or work-study income.
Speak up about changes. The 2023-24 FAFSA uses financial information from 2021. If your family’s financial picture has changed since then—maybe a parent lost a job due to the pandemic—you should complete the FAFSA and then contact
the Financial Aid office at the school you plan to attend; they can adjust your financial aid to reflect your family’s current income.
Don’t assume you won’t qualify for aid. If your family has a higher-than-average income, you may shrug off the FAFSA. Don’t. Some schools, companies or organizations that offer merit-based scholarships also want FAFSA information,
and if you haven’t filed, you could miss out.
Use the Net Price Calculator (NPC). The NPC is an online tool that determines what your actual costs at Bellarmine or other universities will be. Enter information about yourself to discover what students like you paid to attend an institution
in the previous year, after taking grants and scholarship aid into account. All Title IV institutions that enroll full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students are required to have an NPC on their site. You can find
Bellarmine’s at https://www.bellarmine.edu/financial-aid/calculators/.
A Bellarmine education is more affordable than most people realize; 100 percent of first-year students receive some form of scholarship from the university. Bellarmine will also match the current direct tuition at qualifying
students’ state flagship university under our Public Price Promise—provided they have filled out the FAFSA.
No matter what college or university you are considering, ask for help if you need it and fill out that form! Without it, you’re leaving potential money on the table.