What FAFSA is Supposed to Do



FAFSA sounds like a beautiful thing. Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here were my initial thoughts when I first got into learning more about the government's primary financial aid application...

  • FREE - I like that already.
  • APPLICATION - How tough can one financial aid form be to complete?
  • FEDERAL - They must have LOTS of money for college!
  • STUDENT - That's me and I don't have enough money for college!
  • AID - Sounds like I don't have to pay that back. Good message to bookend - Free Aid.

So, in it's simplest message I thought I fill out a free application and get free money for college. Right?

FAFSA -worried father

Why FAFSA Frustrates Families

  1. The FAFSA financial aid form can be very confusing. In fact, one study reported that 42% of financial aid applications by parents have errors.
  2. No one at the college or the government really checks these forms for accuracy. That is not an invitation to misrepresent your situation it simply means the burden of accuracy is completely on the filer.
  3. There is no recourse to re-file for FAFSA financial aid errors in past years. What's done is done.
  4. After sifting through all the formulas for your family's financial sources of possible funds for college a single calculated number drives all government aid decisions - Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  5. EFC drastically overstates a family's real ability to pay for college.

  6. The net result is that most middle class families who need the most help to pay for college don't receive anything through FAFSA.

    FAFSA - empty pockets

    What FAFSA is Really Used For

    In the days of much more generous federal student aid, the FAFSA was a fairly administered tool to help families in need. Since the government has made sizable cuts over the last 20 years in free aid and has shifted students into the gigantic student loan business (insert link) here's my conclusion on how it is used today:

    1. Capture much more of your private financial information to the government.
    2. Because your student is interested in specific colleges to apply to they conveniently have a check box to give them permission to share your personal data with the school's financial aid office.
    3. Because the government pool of direct federal student aid has been reduced and the college loan levels continue to rise dramatically, colleges have been forced to make up this gap by raising their own need-based funds. Colleges often then use your private financial information to screen you OUT for money that you need for college.
    4. The normal timing of the college decision process results in your student being "hooked" on a particular school late in the game of how much free financial aid for college there will be. As a result of frequent large shortfalls, student and parent loans are often the only solution considered.

    FAFSA - cash in nest

    Are You Being a Wise Consumer?

    Think about other major consumer purchases your family makes. Would you share your private financial information to the real estate agent at an open house at first blush? How about the last car you bought - did you share your W-2 statement with the salesperson you just met?

    However, when it comes to college - one of the largest financial decisions you will ever make - colleges and the government have teamed up to induce families to share their private financial information - AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF THE BUYING PROCESS- all to their detriment.

    FAFSA - searching

    How to Find More Attractive Sources of Free Money

    Find out where there are more attractive sources of non-need based money and how to position your student to be attractive to more schools of their choice. Learning from my free webinar will give you quite valuable insights. The high schools and colleges just don't share these critical consumer principles to parents and their students.

    Recommended Links

    FAFSA government link
    Pell Grants for Low Income Families


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parents talking

What Clients Are Saying



“…without your involvement, we never would have thought to approach the college directly…. We got the documentation together to obtain residency, created letters to send and were granted residency which translated to $20,000 in savings.

THEN we went back and said, 'don’t take away her out-of-state scholarship just because she is now a resident' and got OSU to maintain the $7,000 scholarship".

"We would like to express our appreciation for the service that our daughter received.

She is our first child to go through the college application process, and it was very intimidating for our whole family. You were able to create a clear, understandable path for our daughter.

As a result of all of this hard work, our daughter was offered three presidential scholarships at various colleges, including a full tuition scholarship to a private college.

Thanks again, and we look forward to working with you on our son's upcoming college search."

"HWS presented an above average financial aid award, however, it included some work study. With your guidance, I went back and asked that the work study be converted to either grant or scholarship to relieve the financial burden while allowing my daughter to focus on academics.

They came back with the conversion AND continued to keep her eligible for an equal amount of money through work study."