As I innocently sit at a high school concert, the parent of a college-bound student sitting next to me leans over and says, “I have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but I’m petrified to hit the ‘send’ button for fear that I’ve made a mistake.” This is petite, tough as nails woman with a master’s degree who has a gift with the special needs students she teaches at a very large public school, and she’s afraid to hit one itty bitty button on a keyboard that can’t possibly hit back?
I wasn’t surprised, though, I’ve heard this same sentiment echoed over and over again by parents nationwide. They have send-a-phobia. The cause? The stakes when applying for college financial aid are quite high. Parents fear the ramifications of making a mistake could mean the difference between a college education and a lifetime of living in their basement, unemployed. This is magnified because parents of college-bound freshmen must often complete the financial aid forms before they have the opportunity to complete their federal taxes upon which the financial aid forms are based. So you are completing the FAFSA based on an estimate…your best guest which somehow doesn’t feel very reassuring.
There is however a cure for send-a-phobia and no, it’s not to avoid hitting the “send” button. In fact, face your problem head on…give that button a convincing punch. THE most important thing you need to know is to submit any and all financial aid applications by whatever deadline is specified by the college. DON’T MISS A DEADLINE. You are allowed to submit your financial aid applications based on estimates, and there is a spot to indicate that this is what you’ve done. You can always correct or change the data you submitted later, but missing a deadline can do irreparable harm!
If you find, after you have submitted your financial aid paperwork, that you made a mistake, or need to update something, you can go back onto the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.gov) and file a “correction”. They will allow you to go in and change the data you originally submitted, so incorrect data is not a huge problem, but missed deadlines are…hit send and get that financial aid application out the door!