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Complete your FAFSA application today!

Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2022

2022 is well underway, and prospective college students are already thinking about their plans for the fall. A top priority for any college student is securing financial assistance, and the annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a great first step in finding resources and ensuring access to education.

To help spread awareness of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and its upcoming submission deadlines, the Iowa Department of Education spoke with Ty Patton from Iowa College Aid. Iowa College Aid is a state agency that provides resources and guidance on available financial assistance opportunities. Below, Patton, the agency’s communications coordinator, shared his thoughts on why FAFSA is so important for Iowa students and their college and career goals.

What exactly is FAFSA, and who is it intended for?
The FAFSA is designed for prospective and current college students to determine federal financial aid eligibility to finance their postsecondary education. However, many states, colleges and other organizations also use the FAFSA to award additional financial aid. The financial assistance from completing the FAFSA can come in the form of scholarships and grants, work-study awards or federal student loans.

Getting ready for the next steps in a student’s college and career pathway – whether as a graduating high school senior, current college student or as an adult looking into graduate school – can sometimes be overwhelming, and another application can seem like a hassle. Why is it important to apply?
Completing the FAFSA should be the first step for anyone seeking to continue their education through further education or training. A completed FAFSA is key to accessing scholarships, grants, federal student loans and other resources to finance your education. Even if you don’t think you need or would qualify for financial aid, file the FAFSA. It’s free, and nearly everyone is eligible for some form of financial aid. Yet, every year, millions of dollars in financial aid in Iowa and billions nationally go unclaimed. Importantly, all grants and scholarships provided by the state of Iowa require a FAFSA, and most institutional aid requires the form. Filing the FAFSA can also open up other opportunities for financial assistance from institutions, such as child-care subsidies.

Iowa College Aid also has FAFSA-specific resources available that provide detailed, step-by-step instructions on completing the FAFSA and the process of receiving financial aid.

For high school students, why is it important for discussions about FAFSA to occur at school with a school counselor or college and career transition counselor during a student’s individual career and academic plan (ICAP) process?
Your counselors have years of experience, and many of them have received rigorous training on the FAFSA process through courses offered by Iowa College Aid. They are a tremendous resource for students as their experience and expertise can help make the FAFSA completion process as easy as possible for you and your family. They know the best strategies to maximize your potential financial aid award and have the training to guide you step-by-step through the process and make what may feel overwhelming easily achievable. Your school may also be part of Iowa College Aid’s Course to College, which provides essential support and resources for schools to cultivate a college-going culture from college preparedness through the transition to higher education. Iowa College Aid also offers a Virtual College Coach program that provides support through texting or virtual appointments to assist students with any questions they may have as they prepare and plan for their postsecondary education.

Across the country, there has been a growing trend of fewer individuals applying for FAFSA. Why is it important for Iowa’s workforce to have higher FAFSA completion rates?
Education or training beyond high school is necessary for many of the high-demand careers in Iowa and by 2025 it is projected that 68 percent of all jobs in Iowa will require some form of postsecondary education or training. Completing the FAFSA is a critical component of accessing the financial resources to receive that education and training. Ninety percent of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA enroll directly in postsecondary education. Many programs designed to build Iowa’s workforce, such as the Iowa Tuition Grant and Last-Dollar Scholarship, require FAFSA completion.

Are there important upcoming deadlines for FAFSA?
The FAFSA is available for completion starting on Oct. 1 and you should try to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize your potential financial aid eligibility and award. The state deadline in Iowa is July 1. However, many scholarship and grant programs have deadlines as early as March 1. So it is definitely in your best interest to complete your FAFSA early to make sure you have access to every bit of financial aid available.