Navigating FAFSA: Challenges and Solutions for Students and Families

Saturday, May 04, 2024
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Recently, the agency that processes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) began experiencing significant and troublesome setbacks in its efforts to streamline the application process. These persistent challenges have left numerous families nationwide feeling financially stressed.   This is all happening months before the next school year is set to begin, and just as college tuition bills begin to arrive at students’ homes. Because of these issues, many families are experiencing an uncertain future. 


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that students in the US  fill out annually to determine their eligibility for federal student financial aid. This aid includes grants, work-study funds, and loans for education expenses. The FAFSA takes into account such factors as family income, assets, household size, and the number of family members in college to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which determines the student's financial need. Colleges and universities use this information to assess a student's financial need and determine the types and amounts of federal aid that students are eligible to receive. The information from the FAFSA assists colleges with creating financial aid packages tailored to each student's individual circumstances.

In 2021, the Department of Education passed the FAFSA Simplification Act. This Act was written to enable a complete overhaul and simplification of the FAFSA application process, with the intent to make the application more accessible to families.  Expected changes and improvements to the form include;  reducing the number of total questions from 103 to 18, making the application available in 11 new languages, and expanding access to Pell Grants. 

Given the major delays and ongoing errors in rolling out the new FAFSA form, some students and their families are still awaiting answers and are concerned that they may not have complete financial information available to them by the time they need to make college decisions. Thankfully, most colleges and universities are doing their best to accommodate families by extending their deadlines and the Department of Education has reported that they are beginning to catch up on the backlog of applications.

Here at NSHSS, If you are experiencing some of these FAFSA challenges, you are not alone. Many families are experiencing the same anxiety that you’re facing right now. According to the National College Attainment Network, FAFSA completions are down almost 30% year-over-year through April 19. If you are still waiting to hear about your financial aid package, there is something you can do to help. 


Recently I contributed to an article in Higher Ed Drive, where I shared some tips for students. 

  1. Keep an open line of communication with the colleges you are interested in attending.  University admissions offices encourage all students to continue to keep in touch regarding the status of your FAFSA documentation. Frequent and open communication can help Admission and Financial Officers to become more familiar with your particular needs and assist on a more personal level. Many colleges are hosting additional financial aid webinars for families and posting frequent updates on their websites as well. 

  2. If you need more time to make an informed college decision, request it in writing from each individual school you are still considering. 

  1. Use this time to apply for scholarships. Right now, there are approximately 1.7 million private scholarships available to students, with a total value of more than $7.4 billion.   Many of these awards go unclaimed each year.  Scholarships offer an excellent way for students and families to alleviate financial strain, independent of the outcome of the FAFSA.

For more information on the FAFSA documentation process, scholarships to apply to, and university admissions guidelines, feel free to visit our website at