YouthSpeak: It’s FAFSA Season

by Rusty Johnson, FosterClub California Program Coordinator

‘Tis the season for deadlines and yes, this includes financial aid!  There is one BIG deadline that everyone must know about, especially foster youth and alumni …the FAFSA! As a former foster youth myself, I remember hearing about the FAFSA from others, but it wasn’t until I was in my sophomore year of college I understood what the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” (FAFSA) was.

Here are some helpful tips as an adult supporter that you can keep in mind when assisting foster youth with financial aid.

  1. Some foster youth don’t know that completing the FAFSA is free so sometimes people end up paying for it. Make sure foster youth use the fafsa.gov website and NOT fafsa.com which charges for services. – Brianna Roberts
  2. Do your FAFSA early. Completing it by the March 2 deadline is essential in order to maximize the amount of aid you can get. – Briana Osbourne
  3. A student is considered independent if he or she was in foster care at any time since he or she turned 13. Being independent means that the student does not have to provide their parent’s income informaton.  – John Devine
  4. Help foster youth to complete their forms.  I know one of the harder sections for me to fill out is the tax section. – Alejandra Lopez-Cuellar
  5. Inform your youth!  Help them to understand the benefits of completing the FAFSA and indicating their status on the form as a “ward of the court.”
  6. When appropriate, use a supplementary letter to explain extenuating circumstances
  7. Don’t give up if you don’t receive the aid that you were hoping for.  You can appeal a disappointing aid package with your campuses financial aid department.
  8. Contact the Foster Youth Success Initiative liaison at community colleges or the foster youth contact at a four-year university for assistance with financial aid issues.

For more information regarding deadlines, visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm.  All college-bound youth should complete FAFSA, but it is especially important for foster youth as it is the one form that will qualify them for the most financial aid.

A special thanks to our California Scholars and Ambassadors for their submissions.