FAFSA For Foster Youth: Everything You Need To Know

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FAFSA season is in full swing!

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA) is the main hub for all college goers to apply for federal and state grants (free money) as well as public loans (borrowed money).

According to StudentAid.gov, over 19 million current and prospective students complete the FAFSA every year. The FAFSA takes into consideration your income and assets to determine how much financial assistance you will need to pay for school.

This application goes live in October of every year for the following academic year. So, for example, the application for the 2020-2021 school year went live on October 1st2019, and will remain open through the 2020-2021 academic year.

That doesn’t mean that you should wait to apply until right before school starts. The FAFSA has what’s called a priority deadline.This means that anyone who completes the FAFSA before the deadline gets priority to receive all eligible aid.

After this deadline, if funding runs out, you aren’t guaranteed to receive it. The priority deadline is typically March 2nd, which is right around the corner!

Why This Matters For Foster Youth

There are a wide range of financial opportunities available to current and former foster youth to help pay for college. If a young person was in foster care for one day after their 13thbirthday and can provide documentation of their foster care status, they could be eligible to receive thousands of dollars in aid.

This could not only pay for their tuition, but also potentially put some money in their pockets to help ease the burden of balancing work and school responsibilities. Because foster youth are considered “independent students,” they don’t have to report any financial information about biological parents, foster parents or guardians. The only financial information they need to include is their own, making them eligible for many grants that they don’t have to pay back.

Sadly, this resource is greatly underutilized by foster youth. According to the John Burton Foundation, only about half of foster youth who enrolled in community college received the Pell Grant even though almost all of them would qualify. That’s up to $6,195 in lost financial support for each foster youth who didn’t file a FAFSA, or didn’t file correctly.

The FAFSA Challenge is Here to Help

That’s where the FAFSA Challenge comes in.

Sponsored by the John Burton Foundation, the Foster Youth FAFSA Challenge is a nationwide campaign to increase the number of college bound foster youth who complete the FAFSA and receive all the financial aid they are eligible for.

Nationwide, counties host financial aid application nights, spreading the word and making sure that every eligible college bound foster youth completes the FAFSA before the priority deadline.

Youth and caregivers can contact their local county office of education or get in touch with their high school counselor to learn more about the FAFSA Challenge in their area.

iFoster is Joining the Campaign!

The iFoster mission is to bring life changing resources to foster youth, and financial aid can absolutely be the difference between a youth attending college or being unable to access higher education.

As if getting free money for college wasn’t enough, any foster youth who completes the FAFSA in California will also receive a free cell phone with an unlimited talk, text and data plan through the iFoster Phones for Foster Youth Program.

All you have to do is upload a picture of your FAFSA confirmation to your digital locker in the iFoster Portal (or you can email or text it to iFoster as well) along with your contact information and shipping address. iFoster will take care of the rest.

For youth living outside of California, if you provide the same information (confirmation of your FAFSA and your contact information) you will be entered into a drawing to win one of 10 brand new Chromebooks that you can use for your college classes. Our first drawing will be on March 2nd, the priority deadline for filing your FAFSA.

Please join iFoster in spreading the word about financial aid, and ensuring that all foster youth who aspire to go to college have the knowledge and resources to help them achieve their dreams.

For more information on how to fill out the FAFSA as a foster youth, visit the iFoster Portal to see our How Do I on financial aid. You can also access the John Burton Financial aid Toolkit here for additional information.