College Officials Offers Insight on FAFSA


Leiney Smith and Delaney Sandner

Fall of the senior year–there may not be a busier time in a high schooler’s career. On top of the normal school workload, part-time jobs, and extracurriculars, seniors have been scrambling to sort out college applications. SHS guidance counselors provide assistance with the process, but it might require more than a few sit-downs, and since most students do not have an abundance of time, that can be difficult. But if seniors need to be made aware of anything, it is the FAFSA form. 

Developed by the office of Federal Student Aid, FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students applying to college are encouraged to apply for FAFSA to gain support in paying for college. According to the website of the Federal Student Aid office, they provide “more than $120 billion in grant, work-study, and loan funds each year” for students who are applying to college in the US. Even students who do not think they qualify for financial aid are encouraged to apply through FAFSA. The form requires information from both parents and students, so when you fill out the form, you should have your legal guardian with you. The sooner this form is completed, the better it is for the student.

According to senior Clara Sullivan, who said most of what she’s learned is from her older sister, the process of applying for financial aid is intimidating. Sullivan said, “For such an important process, it is so complicated, and I know so little.” She is not the only one who feels this way. JJ Adams, another SHS senior, said, “I think students would really benefit if the college workshops talked about FAFSA as well. Students should be able to get a sense of the process before starting.” Both Sullivan and Adams agree that counselors are good resources, but completing the paperwork requires a block of time that can be difficult to carve out of a packed schedule. 

Students interested in learning more about FAFSA can look online. On the Common Application website, the “Financial Aid” tab on the home page offers resources to learn more about FAFSA and gives helpful instructions on how to apply. The page offers information on financial aid and explains the process of applying. There is a link to help guide students who are planning out college costs and student loans. The Common App is student-specific, so this tab will have links for each college a student is applying to, providing even more specific information on FAFSA’s involvement and other financial aid at each school. 

The Scituation spoke to officials from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, and Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, to learn more about FAFSA and the financial aid process. These schools were selected due to the high concentration of Scituate students who apply to these schools each year.  

Amy F. Buke is a Financial Aid Officer for Clemson University. Burke explained that at some schools there are advantages for those who sign up for FAFSA early, but not every school offers this advantage. Referring to Clemson, Burke said, “We just require that new students submit their FAFSA by January 2, but submitting it the day it opens on October 1 and submitting it on January 2 is all the same for us.” However, other colleges, usually private schools, “offer more funding if you place their federal school code first on your FAFSA” and submit before the deadline. Burke said she “would encourage students to contact their prospective schools” when trying to figure out deadlines for specific schools. 

Burke suggests that all students should be aware of their colleges’ deadlines “and then submit the FAFSA prior to the earliest deadline.” Burke explained, “You can include up to 10 schools on your FAFSA, so submitting it prior to the earliest deadline takes care of all the schools at once.”  Burke also noted the importance of completing the FAFSA since it “may play into scholarship funding if there is a need-based component, depending on how the schools determine recipients.”  FAFSA also allows the colleges you’re seeking to understand “not only federal financial aid, but a student’s eligibility for need-based institutional funding.”  This is important for students because they can be considered for the proper aid needed based on their circumstances.  

Faith W. Allen, Providence College’s Associate Director of Financial Aid, provided additional insight. Like Clemson University, Providence College does not consider the time of submission when determining the aid delegated to a student. Forms submitted in October are given no more priority than those submitted the day before the deadline. Unlike Clemson, Providence requires that students complete the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile along with their FAFSA form. This provides the college with a more accurate image of a family’s financial situation. Clemson does include CSS, but it is recommended and not required.  

Allen also advises students to complete both forms in case there are “changes with your family’s situation mid application cycle or mid-year.” Allen encouraged students to apply “even if you don’t necessarily think you’re eligible for need-based aid.” Allen explained that especially “in the wake of COVID,” if you complete the forms and you get them in by the deadline, it’ll be much easier for colleges to sort out information rather than have the forms submitted following changes. 

Her last words of advice were directed at parents and students alike: “Really pay attention to deadlines.”

Burke and Allen urged students to stay organized. They encouraged students to visit their preferred schools’ websites and contact the financial aid offices.  Allen said, “Use both the admissions office and the financial aid office as resources. We are here to help and we like questions, so if you need anything throughout the process, feel free to reach out to either one of our offices.”

FAFSA requires participation from parents, so understanding the form and the process serves parents well, too. SHS parent Peter Thompson, whose daughter Molly Thompson is a member of the senior class, said he would summarize the process as “heavily administrative.” He has been through the process before with his son, Jack Thompson, who graduated from SHS in 2019. Two years later, Thompson is currently going through the process with his daughter, Molly. Thompson is not a huge fan of FAFSA; however, he does believe it is effective and efficient. Nevertheless, he dislikes the whole process. Accordingly, he said he “doesn’t necessarily suggest that FAFSA is faulty from a systems/user-friendliness standpoint.”  Thompson explained, “It has more to do with my aversion to administrative tasks, particularly the ones that take multiple hours and pulling info from external places.”  He wants anyone who is planning to use FAFSA to “prepare for 3+ hours of admin” and have lots of patience.

College deadlines are approaching quickly, and seniors should be armed with the necessary information before starting the financial aid process. 

FAFSA is an essential part of applying to college, and it can contribute to the feasibility of attending college. Students should be aware of its significance early in order to fill the form out as soon as possible. If you’re a senior and you haven’t already, find time to sit down with your legal guardian(s) and complete the FAFSA form so you can check another thing off your college checklist.