Still a Secret? The FAFSA® Is Available This Month, but Majority of Families Unaware, and Nearly a Third Skip It Altogether

Through Exclusive Partnership, Sallie Mae® and Embark Offer a Free Tool That Simplifies the Process and Helps More Families Complete the FAFSA®

NEWARK, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--#FAFSA--October marks the kick-off for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), the gateway to more than $150 billion in grants, college scholarships, and federal financial aid, but the majority of college-going families are waiting until January or later to file – potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in first come, first-served aid. In fact, 61% of families aren’t aware that the FAFSA® is available beginning Oct. 1, and nearly a third of families skip it altogether. The reason – most families don’t think they’ll qualify for aid or feel the form is just too complicated.

To raise awareness about the importance of completing the FAFSA® and to simplify the process, Sallie Mae has partnered with Embark to provide a free online tool to help families file the FAFSA®. Embark is one of the leading providers of online application and admissions software to schools and universities. The tool reduces the average time it takes to complete the FAFSA® from 55 minutes to less than 20 minutes, thanks to a streamlined process with helpful tips, simple navigation, and clear language. Students can stop and start their secure application at their convenience, save their progress, and also have the ability to send email notifications when it’s time for a parent to complete their information.

“The FAFSA® can be intimidating to complete, especially due to its length and complexity,” said Devyn Gardner, vice president, partnerships, Embark. “Our service is a simple, streamlined, and secure way to complete the FAFSA®. We’re thrilled that Sallie Mae is our exclusive partner in helping more students and families complete this all-important form with confidence. Ultimately, we want these individuals to succeed in securing more aid to pay for college.”

“Higher education is a proven pathway to economic mobility, and there’s no reason students should pay more for it than they have to,” said Jen O’Donald, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “That’s why it’s so critical to complete the FAFSA®. Just about everyone who files qualifies for some form of financial aid for college. And now there’s a tool that will help families file easily, hopefully inspiring more families to complete it.”

Sallie Mae also offers the following tips to help students and families get prepared to complete the FAFSA®:

  • Complete the FAFSA® in October Some financial aid is awarded on a first come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds. The earlier families complete the FAFSA®, the better the chance to be in line for that aid. Those who complete and submit the FAFSA® in October will receive their Student Aid Report, or SAR, sooner. The SAR is used by many schools to generate financial aid offer letters. Schools often have priority aid deadlines, so filing early ensures the best possible chance at receiving grants, scholarships, and other offers as part of your aid package.
  • Gather information before sitting down to file — Both students and parents should gather Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank statements, 2019 tax returns, and W-2 forms. Having this information ready before you begin the application can help expedite the process and alleviate stress.
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Also available through Sallie Mae and Embark’s free online FAFSA® service, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can expedite the process by automatically syncing and populating tax return information into the FAFSA®.
  • Avoid common errorsMistakes on the FAFSA® could delay an application, meaning students and families could possibly lose out on some financial aid. Entering incorrect social security or driver’s license numbers, or forgetting to sign the application are some of the most common errors.
  • File the special circumstances form if COVID-19 impacted your finances — There’s an opportunity after filing the FAFSA® to submit a special circumstances form, specifically if a student or parent’s income has changed in light of COVID-19 or other events. The form can be requested from college financial aid offices.

For more information about completing the FAFSA®, visit

Sallie Mae (Nasdaq: SLM) believes education and life-long learning, in all forms, help people achieve great things. As the leader in private student lending, we provide financing and know-how to help make college happen and offer products and resources to help customers make new goals and experiences, beyond college, possible. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

Category: Financial Literacy


Ashley Boucher