Financial Aid: The Word on FAFSA


This acronym has made millions of parents weep. That may be overstating it, but it’s turned the college application process into more of a hassle than it needs to be.

FAFSA is a clumsy acronym for an even more awkward title: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Every time I mention FAFSA during a conversation or a speech I have to form the words in my mind to make sure they come out right.

I’ve always wondered why the federal bureaucrats settled on FAFSA. Wouldn’t a better title have been the Student Aid Document (SAD), which comes closer to describing the mood of financial aid applicants?

The federal student aid form itself, which requires parents to answer 102 questions, is equally unfriendly. And that’s a shame because plenty of families have been too intimidated to fill it out.

Higher ed advocates have clamored for years for the federal government to simplify the FAFSA forms. In a speech at Harvard this fall, the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education advocated shrinking the number of questions to 26.

Rather than waiting (forever?) for the federal government to downsize its application, I’d suggest that you learn as much as you can about the current application process as well as what kind of financial aid is available. I’ve found that most people I talk to have no idea what’s out there.

Further Reading:

A New and Improved FAFSA

Fill Out the FAFSA!

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an bestseller.

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  1. Great information and useful too. I need a grant and I need all the help I can get. I will be back soon as I have bookmarked your blog.