College has become increasingly expensive in the past twenty years; the sticker price at Harvard over four years is more than enough to buy a house.  Students increasingly rely on financial aid from both their college and the government to pay for tuition. Your greatest tool to get funding for higher education is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, for short.  The FAFSA is fairly intuitive to fill out, however, if you have any difficulties, the Department of Education has a live webchat seven days a week and a hotline at 1-800-433-3243.  I bring this up because there has been an increasing number of scammers who offer to fill out your form in exchange for money.


If you want any sort of need-based aid, you have to fill out FAFSA.  That will give you access to money both from your school’s endowment and from the federal government, typically in the form of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.  This might sound like common sense, but a 2016 NerdWallet study discovered that approximately fifty percent of students who were eligible for a Pell Grant did not fill out the FAFSA.  That amounted to 2.7 billion dollars of lost aid; to reiterate, those were Pell Grants which are effectively the government giving you money to cover the cost of education.  Moreover, those students likely lost the opportunity to take out subsidized loans from the federal government, forcing them into high-interest private ones. Even if you don’t think you will be eligible for financial aid, take the time to do the FAFSA.  It is relatively quick and can pay massive dividends.


Lastly, I want to highlight two changes that will be happening to FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year.  If you plan to attend college between July 1st, 2017 and June 30th, 2018 then you have from now until June 30th to submit your FAFSA.  For the following year (2018-2019), you can submit your application starting October 1st, 2017. Under previous FAFSA rules, applications would begin on New Year’s Day 2018.  This change gives students an extra three months to fill out the form. However, you should still try to fill out FAFSA as soon as possible. Some colleges mete out aid on a rolling basis so the later you fill out the form, the less aid may be available.  Ideally, this change will let students calculate the cost of attending school earlier in the process which is a welcome innovation.


The other modification to FAFSA is that they require your family’s income from both last year and the year before, rather than just the preceding one.  This is intended to optimize aid and distribute the greatest amount to the most needy families. However, there are bound to be a number of families who slip through the cracks and are adversely affected by this new policy.  If this happens to you, contact your college’s financial aid office ASAP. They’re there to help you and can often make accommodations on a case by case basis.


FAFSA remains an integral part of paying for college and Ivy Admissions wants to be there as well.  Whether that means guiding you through FAFSA or identifying scholarship for which you can apply, let Ivy Admissions knock a zero off your tuition.