In every picture of the world-famous poet I admire featured in the writing magazine I read to torture myself, she touches her face. She imagines the readers, me too though she doesn’t know it, as she peers severely through the lens into my face: What have you written? What have you given back to the world lately? Stately and convicting, she looks down on me from the image on the page. She’s posing, a persona, I think, but she’s right.
This Tuesday, Feb. 24, Cy-Fair ISD staff host a free workshop about financial aid options and FAFSA called Funding Your Future, FAFSA Night. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is a form (available online here) that is intimidating for many students, especially first-generation, low-income students. In fact, many students do not fill it out at all, which is a shame because, according to Nicole Wiesenthal of USA Today, students are eligible to earn up to $5,775 dollars as a Pell Grant, and that doesn’t have to be repaid. Not ever. Aside from the time and effort, grants are free money, so why haven’t you filled out your FAFSA yet?
Funding Your Future, FAFSA Night is free, and the presentation will be made in English and Spanish. I encourage all high school juniors and seniors and their parents to go. The FAFSA isn’t supposed to take very long, but that’s only if you have all the information readily available to answer the questions on the form. In other words, for the application process to go smoothly, some preparation is required. This workshop will help you get prepared to apply. You will learn about need-based and merit-based aid, student loans (not the best option, but sometimes the only one), and work-study programs. In short, you will find out ways to pay for college other than writing a check to the university or college you attend.
Every student should fill out the FAFSA. Let me repeat: EVERY student should fill out the FAFSA, regardless of background, ethnicity, or economic situation. Applying is free and gets you on the road for financial aid of all kinds. Yes, it can seem annoyingly complicated, but that’s nothing compared to filing your taxes; trust me. Don’t let a form intimidate you. You may fill it out and learn that you’re not eligible for any assistance, but it is not a wasted effort. Why? Three reasons:
This will not be the last time you have to fill out a complicated form in your life. Also, you have to fill out the FAFSA every year even if you’ve filled it out before, which leads us to the next point…
2. Future Eligibility
Just because you don’t qualify this year, things may change and you qualify next year. Answers to the questions are based on last year’s taxes. This doesn’t seem to make sense if you’re quitting your full-time job to go back to school. Even so, when you apply the next year, that difference in income will be reflected in your taxes and you will most likely be eligible for some aid.
Your school’s financial aid department will require the FAFSA in addition to their own application to determine your eligibility for aid with the school. In addition to federal resources, the college itself will also have merit and need-based funds available. For example, I received a $500 scholarship my first semester at UT-Austin–a scholarship I knew nothing about and didn’t apply for directly. Just because you don’t qualify for federal aid doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for aid from the college. Don’t miss out on the school’s resources.
Although filling out any form with the word “federal” attached to it is almost never easy, almost always intimidating, and most definitely irritating, it can be absolutely worth your time. In fact, once you’ve gathered all the information you need to complete the FAFSA, I challenge you time yourself with a stopwatch while completing the form and save the time. Later, when you receive your award letter from your college, divide the amount you’re eligible to receive by the number of minutes it took you to apply. You will see just how true the old adage “time is money” can be.
This news thrills me for two reasons.
1. Obviously, the first book is a classic that has never been out of print for a reason. It’s life-changing, paradigm-shifting, and revolutionary. Race in America continues to be a topic that necessitates paradigm-shifting, revolutionary, life-changing revelation and discussion. I’m curious to see what parallels there are between the issues an adult Scout grapples with in Go Set A Watchman, which is set in the 1950s, and today.
2. A world-famous, Pulitzer winner to publish her second novel at 88! There’s hope for me yet!