Free workshops help to navigate financial aid

High school students rushing to finish their college applications often forget there is another important step that they may need to take — applying for financial aid.

That application is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and the application deadlines are rapidly approaching.

Five workshops have been scheduled this month to help students and parents with the application process, beginning with Monday’s workshop in Stanwood.

Financial aid specialists will be at each session to help families with the application process, which can be confusing for first-time applicants.

Families need to know that there’s a limited amount of money available for financial aid so they need to complete the application as soon as possible, said Andrea Wilson, director of financial aid at Everett Community College.

“The earlier you apply, the higher the chance of getting that funding,” she said.

Although deadlines vary at the state’s community colleges, technical schools and universities, at EvCC, the deadline is March 14. “We want them to apply a minimum of four to five weeks prior to that,” Wilson said.

There have been some steps added in recent years to try to simplify the application process, she said. For example, helpful hints are listed next to questions in the online application.

“A lot of questions involve students from blended families,” Wilson said. A question such as ‘Where do you live?’ can be complicated if the child splits time between the homes of divorced parents.

The answer, she said, is to list the home where you spend the most time.

Missing an application deadline can cost applicants as much as $7,000 to $10,000 in financial assistance, due to the limited pool of money, Wilson said.

Students don’t have to wait until they know which school they’ve been admitted to before applying. They can list up to 10 prospective colleges or universities on the financial aid application.

The upcoming workshops provide the opportunity to get individual help with the application. “It’s really a good opportunity for student to ask questions one-on-one with the financial aid experts,” Wilson said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

Workshop dates

Monday: 6 to 8:30 p.m., Stanwood High School, 7400 272nd St. NW, Stanwood.

Jan. 12: 1 to 5 p.m., Everett High School, 2416 Colby Ave., Everett.

Jan. 17: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Cascade High School, 801 E. Casino Road, Everett.

Jan. 24: 6 to 8 p.m., Everett Community College East Campus, 14090 Fryelands Blvd., Lake Tye Building, Ste. 373, Monroe.

Jan. 26: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Everett Community College Main Campus, 2000 Tower St., Everett.

To register, go to www.collegegoal

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