WALLINGFORD — Sheehan High School senior Daniela Juarez wanted to find an affordable college choice. Her first option is a community college, which will give her the opportunity to explore different career paths. After signing up for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, she was excited to learn the cost of community college would be covered by financial aid.
“I’m grateful FAFSA is available. I know college is expensive and I know students can benefit from any kind of help,” she said.
Juarez was able to get help with the application at the Spanish Community of Wallingford, a nonprofit that assists Latinos. One or two times a month, SCOW provides students with a chance to get one on one help with FAFSA. During the sessions, students can fill out the application with the help of an education counselor at CONNTAC, an educational opportunity center.
FAFSA is a free federal online application for financial assistance for college, certificate programs and graduate school. Colleges use the application to determine eligibility for grants, loans and work study.
Jacob Li, an education counselor at CONNTAC, helped Juarez with her FAFSA application. CONNTAC offers college admission assistance, career counseling and general scholarship assistance.
“Most students we work with have a tight budget and education is expensive,” Li said. “By filling out FAFSA, you maximize the chances of getting free money and limit debt incurred.”
Li encourages students to fill out the application during the fall of their senior year of high school. The application takes about 45 minutes to an hour and a student must have tax documents to complete the form.
After submitting a FAFSA, students receive a Student Aid Report. The report explains the type and amount of aid a college is offering with expected costs for the year. Once a student receives the aid summary from multiple colleges, they can compare which is best. The amount of aid a student receives is determined by income per household.
Angela Fragoso, an English as a Second Language teacher at Platt High School in Meriden, has held parent/student meetings on FAFSA in Spanish and English. During the meetings, she explains how the college process works, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“FAFSA is important for all students, especially those that come from low socioeconomic means,” she said. “A lot will qualify for some sort of financial aid.”
According to Fragoso, eligibility requirements for FAFSA include proof of citizenship, a Social Security number and demonstrated financial need.
“It is really important for parents to understand the difference between types of aid they can receive,” she said.
For more information visit studentaid.gov. or contact the Spanish Community of Wallingford at Scowinc.org.