The FAFSA Experience

 College applications, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and scholarships—these are important steps for seniors heading to college next year. Many senior students struggle with applying for and even receiving their financial aid and scholarships. Most seniors rely on both of these to make decisions about where they’re going to go for college.

Nour Karkus, a senior at Leonia High School, talks about her experience going through FAFSA for financial aid. She says, “It was really easy because I had help from my neighbor, who has been through the process. Without her help, I wouldn’t have been able to do it since it’s a very confusing and hard process.” Seniors, if you are feeling overwhelmed and confused by the process, Nour also recommends going to your counselor for help with FAFSA. 

The Guidance Department has extensive resources available online for students who need help with applications for scholarships and FAFSA. One way to learn about them is to pay close attention at the beginning of senior year – school counselors will visit every senior English class and go through the Naviance process to make sure everyone understands how to access the site. This is also a useful opportunity to ask questions about FAFSA. In addition, Student Services always hosts a Financial Aid Night early in the year for any students or parents who want to know more about the process. If you miss that day, you can always schedule a time to visit your counselor and ask for help, but make sure you get the applications started as soon as possible as extensions do not exist for these deadlines.

Another senior from Leonia High School, Will, talks about whether the amount of financial aid he receives will change what college he will go to. He says, “No, because I’ve been set on my dream college for a while, and no amount of financial aid would change my decision.” While some students count on financial aid for their final decision about where they’re going to go, Will is not one of them, and instead is one of the few students going to their dream college no matter the cost. He was also asked about the financial aid process and what it would mean to get financial aid; he says, “My dad mostly did everything for me, which was super helpful since it’s been known to be a hard and confusing process. Getting financial aid would make my life a lot easier since I don’t have to worry about money as much and wouldn’t have to worry about student loans either.” Another alternative to figuring out how to apply for financial aid is simply asking your parents or guardians for help, and it seems it worked perfectly for Will. Though Will’s statement about life being easier with financial aid is very true, financial aid is very helpful, especially for students who can’t really afford college on their own. It is a great tool to help students go to college and pursue their careers.

This year, FAFSA ran into some technological issues, forces many colleges to extend their deadlines for commitments in order to provide students with the chance to figure out whether they were getting financial aid or not. This would in turn help them determine which college they would commit to. Many students rely on financial aid and scholarships to pay for college, and FAFSA’s delays this year had unfortunate timing. FAFSA eventually released their official numbers for students in waves and students now have a clearer picture of their financial burden for college.

The experiences of high school seniors with financial aid show the vital role it plays in their accessibility and support going into their higher education. By examining the challenges they face from the beginning to the end of their journey obtaining financial aid, it becomes prominent that there is an overwhelming need for more conversations and resources for students to go to while going through FAFSA. Financial aid is one, if not the most important part of a college application and education, which can make or break a student’s ability to even go into higher education or continue to do so. 

Emma Vasquez