On Wednesday, during her visit to T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, First Lady Michelle Obama asked students a good question: Why would the First Lady of the United States come to a school and spend time with students “just to watch you fill out a computer form?”
The answer is that filling out one particular form – the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is one of the most important things students and families can do in planning for college success.
“You don’t have to be the valedictorian. You don’t have to major in a certain subject,” the First Lady said in her remarks. “You don’t even have to be at the bottom of the income ladder to receive the money.”
There is no income cutoff to qualify for financial aid, and most federal student aid programs don’t take grades into consideration when you apply.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who joined the First Lady at the event, pointed out in his remarks that recent changes have made filling out the FAFSA much easier.
“For too long, applying for financial aid and securing the best aid package has been much more complicated, and much less transparent, than it should have been,” Secretary Duncan said.
The FAFSA, Secretary Duncan said, now uses “skip logic” so students need only to answer questions relevant to them. Improvements to the web-based form – now used by 98 percent of applicants – makes the form faster and easier to fill out, less than 30 minutes on average.
Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 15 million students paying for college or career school.
“Almost everyone is eligible for some kind of financial aid, and all you have to do to access that aid is fill out this one little form,” said the First Lady. “It’s so simple.”
Later, Secretary Duncan and the First Lady visited with parents and students, discussing plans for college and how the FAFSA is a key step to achieving their post-secondary dreams. They also talked with school counselors about their work with students.
You can take action by filling out the FAFSA today.