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It’s no secret that college can be pretty expensive.

Fortunately, regardless of what you ultimately decide to do after high school, financial aid is available to help you reach the next level of education.

If you or your student are planning to attend college or other postsecondary options, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you gain access to thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants like New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

Even if you’re a high school senior who isn’t sure about your plans after high school, completing a FAFSA now at least ensures that the colleges you’re accepted to will send financial aid packages for your review in spring 2022.

Close-up of the physical FAFSA application.

Want to learn more about submitting a FASFA? Check out the Understanding FAFSA guide for details about the application process!

Students and families who complete the FAFSA will begin to receive financial aid award letters in winter and spring 2022 either through email or the postal service. How this information is presented can vary though, so it’s helpful to prepare with some key resources:

It’s important that students regularly check their email for information regarding the processing of their FAFSA and TAP applications. You could, for example, be selected for verification, a process in which you will be asked to submit hard copies of the documents you used to complete your FAFSA. Don’t let a missed email jeopardize your financial aid award!

Four high school students around a table with laptops open and smiling towards the viewer.

Want to receive an estimate of the net price of a particular college or university? Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s online Net Price Calculator.

Assessing Affordability

Now is also a good time to learn what the cost of attending different schools would be for your family. A college’s “price tag” or “sticker price” does not convey how much any individual student will pay, which might be much less. You can use to take the mystery out of affordability by reviewing the following information:

  • Net Price Calculator – Allows prospective students to enter information about themselves to find out what other students paid to attend a particular institution in the previous year, after taking grants and scholarship aid into account; and
  • New York State’s Educational Opportunity Programs & Admissions Criteria.

Please exercise extreme caution when applying to for profit colleges. Many NYC students who attend for profit colleges are less likely to graduate and more likely to leave college in debt.

Student working on an in-class assignment while student right next to them looks on.

File your FAFSA as soon as you are able; many colleges, including CUNY, allocate funds on a rolling, first-come, first-serve basis. (Photo by cottonbro. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pexels.)

Applying for Scholarships

In addition to the financial aid packages provided by colleges, you can also reduce your financial burden through scholarships. Scholarships are funds awarded to students to help meet the costs of their educational needs, and do not have to be repaid. Learn more about scholarship opportunities via these links:

Student sitting at a wooden desk with a laptop, coffee, and pen in hand.

Once your FAFSA has been submitted and processed, you may still make changes or edits to your application. For more information, visit the Federal Student Aid webpage. (Photo by Monstera. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pexels.)

Financial Aid Available to Undocumented Students

Thanks to the Senator José Peralta New York State DREAM Act, undocumented students and other immigrant students can now access New York State‐administered grants and scholarships to support their higher education costs, including TAP.

The NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) reports that students can qualify for State-administered grants and scholarships if they have a U-Visa, a T-Visa, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), DACA status, or no official immigration status. Students who do not live in New York State can also qualify if they are U.S. citizens, green card holders, asylees, or refugees.

Applicants must also show that they have attended school in New York State (NYS). For those applying for financial aid at the undergraduate level:

If the applicant graduated from high school in NYS:

    • They must have attended high school in NYS for two or more years.
    • They must apply for a grant within five years of graduating high school.
  • If the applicant has an NYS High School Equivalency Diploma:

      • They must apply for a grant within five years of receiving the high school equivalency diploma.

Undocumented students applying for graduate school aid have to apply within 10 years of receiving their NYS high school (or high school equivalency) diploma. Please note that eligibility for financial aid depends on immigration status as well as when and where applicants attended and graduated high school or received their high school equivalency diploma.

If you have further questions about the NYS DREAM Act, you can check out the HESC’s DREAM Act website, email the HESC at NYSDREAM@applyISTS.com, or call the HESC at (888) 697-4372.

Student laughing while working on their school laptop

Don’t miss out on getting free money for college! Check out available scholarships on websites like Fastweb, Scholar Snapp, and others.

Application Fee Waivers

Considering City of New York (CUNY) colleges for your postsecondary options? Through College Access for All, the DOE and CUNY provide application fee waivers to high schools to distribute to students with financial need.

Students who face financial hardship can request a CUNY fee waiver from their high school counselor. One fee waiver gives students the opportunity to submit an application to six college choices using the CUNY Application. Ask your school’s guidance counselor for more information.

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Filling out forms is no one’s idea of a good time, but the financial payoff to plowing through them can be huge. So, if you haven’t already, make yourself comfortable, fix yourself a scrumptious snack, and get started on your FAFSA today!

On behalf of the DOE, we wish all of our rising high school seniors success on their college applications!


Banner photo by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Flickr.

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

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NYC Department of Education, 2019