After the FAFSA – Maximizing Your Free Money
By Bill Wozniak
How you will pay for college becomes a very important question around spring of your senior year in high school. Graduation is around the corner and college decision time looms in the very near future with big decisions to make.
If you do not maximize the free money available to fund college, you may have more student loan debt than necessary. Have no fear, INvestEd is here and ready to help with questions that may come up after filing the FAFSA.
Common questions we receive are: “I filed my FAFSA, now what?” “How do I get my scholarships and grants?” “How do I compare my college costs?” Actually, there are some critical steps you need to take to ensure you maximize your eligibility for free money and minimize student debt. INvestEd created an After the FAFSA Checklist to provide additional guidance regarding the steps outlined below and more.
- Step One: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) by logging back into FAFSA.gov. The SAR will provide comments and errors the federal processor identified while reviewing your application. The comments will help you identify what issues, if any, need corrected.
- Step Two: If you are going to a school in Indiana, you will want to go to IN.gov/che and look for the online services menu on the right hand side of the webpage. Select ScholarTrack and create your account. The ScholarTrack portal allows you to see if the state of Indiana has any concerns with your FAFSA. Any edits they identify will need to be corrected by May 15th, otherwise you will lose state grant money.
- Step Three: Respond to any request from schools regarding additional information they may need to verify your FAFSA data. You may not receive a request, but if you do, respond as soon as possible.
- Step Four: Review the award letters you receive outlining the various types of money available to cover your school costs. You can use INvestEd’s College Cost Comparison Sheet to help you understand the various items listed on each school’s award notification and clearly see the free money versus the potential loan debt.
The financial aid process is somewhat of a waiting game, but completing the steps above will help maximize free money in the form of scholarships and grants while reducing potential student loan debt. As always, connect with INvestEd at Outreach@INvestEdIndiana.org or 317-715-9007 so we can help at any point in the process.