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If You're Headed To College, Now's The Time To Seek Financial Aid

calculator with the word college
Jake Rustenhoven
Flickr Creative Commons

Governor Roy Cooper has declared this Financial Aid Awareness Week, and this Saturday colleges across the state will hold FAFSA Day events. That means it's time for prospective college students to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The single application allows students to apply for both federal and state grants and loans to help pay for higher education.Marcia Weston is the Director of Outreach for the North Carolina State Education Assistance. She says about a third of high school seniors don't complete the form, in some cases because they have other plans after graduation.

"Then there are those that just don't know about the FAFSA or don't understand its purpose, and that's the group that we're really trying to target," Weston said.

Recent North Carolina high school graduates who did not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would have been eligible for more than $80 million in federal financial aid to help them pay for their postsecondary education, according to estimates from Governor Cooper's office.

Older students who are going back to school after a break, high schoolers who are undecided about whether they will attend a higher education program and first generation college-goers are most likely to miss out on the financial aid opportunity.

Weston added that the form can be difficult to navigate if no one in the student's family is familiar with the process. She recommends that even students who are unsure if they will attend college next fall should apply, to keep the option open, and because they will be more familiar with the application for the future.

Weston says it's important to apply early to get the best shot at competitive state aid. Representatives will be on-site at 50 campuses Saturday to help students complete the form.

"We hope to see as many people as possible at FAFSA Day, whether they're traditional students or returning students or going for the first time as adults, we have lots of assistance available," Weston said.

The College Foundation of North Carolina offers more information and registration.

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