May 02, 2021


remoteUprep recommends that everyone fill out the FAFSA form. It’s a no brainer not to.

The FAFSA form takes only 30 minutes to complete (assuming you have everything you need ready), is totally free, and helps students obtain the necessary federal grants and aid a student could benefit from or need to attend higher education. If you do not fill out the FAFSA, you are ineligible to qualify for money that the government is in control of giving out. Take, for example, Pell grants. A Pell grant is a special type of government grant for those in financial need to pay for college, which can provide up to $6,495 a year (as of the 2021-2022 year) for school related costs. Unfortunately, over $2.6 billion of free Pell grant money went unclaimed by around 661,000 high school seniors in 2018 alone, according to NerdWallet. More than half of high school graduates were eligible for free money from filling out the FAFSA, but 37% of students did not complete it. Those who could have received a Pell grant, but did not fill out the FAFSA, made an objective mistake failing to benefit from free money (on average around $4,000 each) that can be corrected for future students through 2 ways in order of priority.

1. Raising awareness, especially for those families in the lowest income brackets who are statistically most likely to benefit from filling out the FAFSA.:

2. Providing the necessary resources and assistance to those that need it to maximize an applicant’s savings.

With around 80% of Pell grants being given to students with family incomes of under $40,000 a year, the most economically disadvantaged groups are missing out on the most grant money. Even if you do not believe you will qualify for a Pell grant, the FAFSA casts a wider net to be eligible for other types of free money or borrowing options. With college being such a large financial cost, increasing the optionality you have as a borrower can be incredibly valuable. According to Morningstar, in addition to unlocking federal aid options, the FAFSA can help students qualify for aid from state governments, private entities, the colleges themselves, and even some merit-based scholarships that do not have to be repaid. Said another way, the FAFSA has many other potential uses besides giving out federal aid to lower income families.

Thankfully, the FAFSA starting in 2022 will be trimmed down to 36 questions to make it even easier to fill out in an effort to convince those on the fence. Even still, it is hard to find a better return on investment or time than by taking the 30 minutes to complete the FAFSA today, even though it can be a pain to answer the over 100 questions. As a tip, if you fill the FAFSA out online, the program utilizes a skip feature. This means that you might not have to answer all the questions depending on your previous answers.

While there are a ton of strategies to maximize your aid by (legally) lowering the appearance of your assets and income, the first step is realizing you should fill it out in the first place. A large part of the remoteUprep “Maximizing College Affordability” course, found on the “Course Offering” page dives into these strategies in an easily digestible format. There is a free snippet of this video to see if this course is good for you, and is also available for a needs-based pricing discount. You are also welcome to take advantage of remoteUprep’s “Free College Admissions Consultation” found on the College ROI Generator page.

For more information about Pell Grants and filling out your FAFSA application, please see the following links, from the organization in charge of the FAFSA.

Notes and Disclaimer: FAFSA is a trademark of The Department of Education. While The Department of Education claims it will take 30 minutes to complete, from experience working with families, it will likely take you much longer to fill it out if it's your first time. Since you need to submit a new FAFSA each year, the first one you do can serve as a template which will likely make it quicker in the future.