September is here and lurking innocently in my inbox was our very first OU Bursar Billing Statement. I hesitated, thanking God it wasn’t the first email in the lineup and didn’t auto open! I wanted to savor those last blissful moments of feeling financially flush before facing the truth of our new fiscal reality. Savoring done, I opened it because I’m a responsible adult and avoidance would only mean additional pain via late charges if I ignored it. Sadly, the Bursar has no regard for the reality I’d rather be living in!
Hopefully by now, though, as a new college parent, you’re in the midst of executing your financial game plan for first year of your child’s college education.
If you’re like me, these college years have come faster than I expected and some of the savings goals have been met but aren’t as over-the-top plentiful as hoped. However, apart from selling a vital organ to pay tuition, which tends to be frowned upon, you may have overlooked one important resource in paying for your child’s college education.
FAFSA. Acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Shortly after our daughter’s OU acceptance letter, the sleek brochures and emails began arriving that encouraged us as future Sooner Parents to run not walk to the computer and help our student apply for FAFSA. Early on, I ignored them because I didn’t think we qualified. Even during the OU Parent Seminar at Enrollment we were urged to apply. It’s repeated continually during the enrollment visit, in case you’re on Twitter (guilty) instead of listening diligently, and you decide it might be for your student and want to ask pertinent questions.
What is FAFSA? Here’s an explanation by Greg Daugherty of MONEY magazine:
“The FAFSA, officially known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form that families fill out to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds for college students. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student aid each year.” (Click here for the short article)
Billions of aid dollars for students. Unless you think like I did “no way am I going to waste 4 hours of my life applying when I’m positive we don’t qualify based on our economic situation”. Thankfully, my husband started to fill out the online forms. But after a few hours of being financially interrogated, I confess, he gave up, too. Lucky for us, a friend encouraged us to finish the application because:
- Students may qualify for a low interest federal Direct Sub Stafford Loans and Direct UnSub Stafford loans. Another option if you unexpectedly need a loan.
- Each student goes into the OU Financial Aid Services database and may be eligible for future scholarships, loans and grants. With their information already gathered, it’s easier to apply.
Our Sooner Freshman qualified for a low-interest Stafford Loan to be paid after graduation. I’m not hip on taking loans but life does tend to dish out the unexpected, so we decided to accept it and give ourselves a slight cushion while rebuilding the college war chest for next year. Over the long holiday weekend, our daughter spent about an hour and half completing the Stafford Loan Entrance Counseling and by Monday night the funds were in her Bursar account. It was that easy.
So no matter what your game plan is for paying for college, I’d encourage you to fill out the FAFSA. It might just give you access to a few more financial options if needed. It’ll be OK. Just take a deep breath, put on comfy clothes, grab a snack, sing the OU fight song and then fill it out. I’ll be honest, at the end you’ll feel as if you’ve just been raked over by the NSA, CIA and FBI, but you might also wind up thanking yourself later down the road. In the meantime, remember we’re all in this together. Now go! Fill it out!