Don’t leave money on the table: File the FAFSA


Mallory Knight / Advance-Titan

Kristi Cutts, Guest author

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’re going home to spend time with family, it’s a great opportunity to discuss financial aid.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is an application that the federal government makes available for college students to help them find loans, grants and scholarships to help pay for college.  

This is worth repeating: The FAFSA is your chance to get free money to help pay for your education. 

Many eligible students don’t even complete the application, which you can do annually. A 2018 analysis found that $2.6 billion in financial aid went unclaimed for the 2018-19 school year. 

Don’t miss out! Aside from the time it takes to apply, which is under an hour, you have nothing to lose by filling out the FAFSA. In fact, the average amount of money awarded to those who file is around $3,900; that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. 

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify, filling out the FAFSA is important. Eligibility is based on need and takes into account things such as how much money you make, how much your parents make, what you have in savings and how much your family would be expected to contribute toward your education. But even if your parents make six-figure incomes, you won’t be automatically disqualified for all kinds of aid. If you don’t qualify for a grant, or if the grant you are awarded doesn’t cover the full cost of what you need, the FAFSA can help you find low-interest federal loans to help cover your school costs.

As you get ready to apply, here’s a list of information you’ll need:

  • Your social security number
  • Your parents’ social security numbers
  • Your driver’s license (or another form of government-issued ID)
  • If you’re younger than age 24, your and your parents’ most recent tax returns
  • Bank account statements and other asset records
  • Records of untaxed income (child support, disability benefits, health savings accounts)

Once you’ve gathered that information, you can begin the application. As a UW Oshkosh student, here’s more information you can use:

  • UWO’s FAFSA Federal School Code: #003920
  • The website to file:

The UWO Financial Aid office will begin issuing awards in February, so be sure to apply before then.

While you’re loading up on turkey and mashed potatoes, make sure you get your fair share from Uncle Sam. File the FAFSA!

If after you’ve exhausted your available resources, including savings and grants, you’re still having trouble covering your college costs, private student loans can help close the gap. Stop by your bank or credit union to discuss your options or just to talk.

Editor’s Note: Financial Corner is a direct response to student requests for more information on navigating money matters. The tips are provided by Kristi Cutts, branch manager of UW Credit Union’s UW Oshkosh branch.