Columbia Southern University’s (CSU) Office of Financial Aid has launched an initiative to help local high schools and seniors fill out financial aid documents, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
CSU’s efforts coincide with Financial Aid Awareness Month, which is held in February to urge students, families and school staff to learn about access to federal, state and institutional student aid. For many college hopefuls, the FAFSA is a vital form that can help make dreams a reality through education; however, completing this government form can be challenging.
CSU’s first outreach event occurred in 2019. Morrell Baxter, a Baldwin County public schools career coach, called CSU’s Office of Financial Aid Director Marie Williams for help answering questions at a Daphne High School’s FAFSA Night.“
I jumped at the opportunity to give back,” said Williams. “I remember being 17 and trying to complete a paper FAFSA that was pages and pages long. It was so overwhelming! I was the first in my household to go to college. There was so much that we didn’t know or understand. I wished someone would have taken the time to help me.”
CSU staff has also worked with counselors and career coaches at Foley High School and Elberta High School. Williams stressed that CSU’s efforts are volunteered and meant to only help with FAFSA, not recruit or require students to apply to CSU for their college education.
“The FAFSA opened Oct.1, 2020, for high school seniors planning on enrolling in fall 2021,” said Williams. “We are excited to help the community and partner with other schools in the area and this is a perfect time to get the word out.”
There are a few proactive steps students and parents can take prior to filling out the FAFSA form. Williams recommends establishing the federal student aid identification (FSA ID), gathering tax documents and planning at least an hour to work on the form.Students should also seek eneral financial aid and college planning information before applying for federal student aid.
Counselors, career coaches and other school staff member seeking assistance with the FAFSA can contact Williams at Marie.Williams@ColumbiaSouthern.edu.