Michael Milone, Ph.D.
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer
The help can come from a friend or family member, a guidance counselor, a person at a college, or another source.
How important is getting help with financial aid forms? A study to answer this question was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A group of high school seniors was able to complete a simplified version of the regular federal application for student financial aid. They also had help completing the form. Those students were 30% more likely to enroll in college the next fall than were students in a control group. The control group had no assistance.
The form is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA can be a challenge, and it usually takes several hours to complete. It involves more than a hundred questions, and many of them deal with family tax information. (Read the CollegeXpress guide to filling out the FAFSA step by step for even more helpful advice!)
In short, get help to complete the college aid forms. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, and be persistent in trying to get it. The U.S. Department of Education recently improved the forms to streamline the process, but that is only part of the solution. With relatively little effort, you can get the help you need, and it will have a huge effect on your getting into college and receiving aid. In addition to your school counselors, you might be able to get help from nonprofit groups such as the National College Access Network (http://www.collegeaccess.org).