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May 19, 2020

FAFSA Deadlines and Help

Question: What is the deadline for completing my FAFSA and who can help me?

You'll find FAFSA deadline information here: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm

You should also carefully check the Web sites for all of the colleges to which you're applying to see what each deadline is. You can find this information on the financial aid pages. Make sure you follow instructions for freshman or “first year" students. These deadlines can vary significantly from school to school so don't assume they're all the same. (It can sometimes be a treasure hunt to locate the information you need. Web sites can be woefully inconsistent, but it's critical to adhere to deadlines so never make assumptions.)

There is a lot of free help available. Start with the "Help" section of the FAFSA Web site at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm. You can also use their "Contact Us" link for more specific questions. See http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/contact.htm This will give you the option of holding a live online chat with a FAFSA staff member or asking your questions over the phone or via email.,

In addition, you can ask your school counselor if there is anyone at your high school or in your community who provides FAFSA assistance or you can call financial aid offices at the colleges on your list and ask for help there.

What you should NOT do is to pay a lot of money for FAFSA guidance. There are a number of private companies that prey on the fears of parents and students going through this maze for the first time. If you are "invited" to attend a "free" financial aid seminar, be wary. The seminar itself may be free, but don't be surprised if you are presented with scare tactics at the session. For instance, you may be told that one small mistake on your FAFSA could cost you thousands in financial aid or that there are countless scholarships that you will miss if you don't have the proper assistance finding them. Then you will be pressured to sign up on the spot for services that cost about $1,000. Don't do it!

As confusing as this process can seem, once you get started on your FAFSA, it may not be as complicated as you fear, especially if you use the free help sources noted above. You can also search for outside scholarships on free sites such as www.fastweb.com .

Finally, if you still feel that you want one-on-one help beyond what the free options can provide, order an hour of assistance ($150) from College Karma (go to http://www.collegekarma.com/college_counseling/college_counseling.htm and scroll down to the bottom of the page to where you'll see "Hourly advice.")

Again, the financial aid application process can be intimidating, but there is lots of help available so don't hesitate to ask for it if you need it.

(posted 1/12/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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