The alarm rings at 7 a.m., and you slam the snooze with the paperback in your hand. Five snoozes later, you roll out of bed and land on the books you were reading until 2 a.m. You scamper down the stairs only to find four bikes double-parked in front of your cruiser. The seat is wet and now so are your sweats. The girl on the bike path in front of you is texting and weaving like she has a BAC of 0.24. She must live on Del Playa Drive. You can’t feel your fingers, and your nose is dripping worse than the broken faucet in the bathroom.
“Oh crap, no scantron for the quiz on Marxism.” Your sprint to the Arbor causes some giggles along the sidewalk. By now, your sprint back has turned into a feeble jog, only to find the professor already collected the scantrons. You sit down, interlock your fingers behind your head (just like you did on Halloween in I.V.) and think to yourself: At least I’m not filling out the FAFSA.
It’s now January, and the new FAFSA is already upon us. Students are grinding their teeth like it’s a chemical engineering midterm. Parents are pulling their hair out like they just saw the price tag on your open container ticket. But do you really need to view this financial aid application like you view the 25 mph speed limit on Mesa Road (i.e., like a pain in the ass)? Not at all.
First, the website is simpler: www.fafsa.gov. The login screen is no more difficult than a freshman multiple-choice test. If you’ve done the FAFSA before, all your personal data, such as your name, social security number and date of birth, will be pre-populated. The most difficult question during the first part is probably picking your grade level in school (fourth-year sophomore and sixth-year senior are not options, but maybe they should be with budget cuts taking their toll on class options.)
The skip logic throughout the application is also improved. Questions you don’t need to answer won’t be asked. Wouldn’t it be great if girlfriends or boyfriends had skip logic? “Honey, do you still love me?” Or, “Babe, do you mind if I go out with the fellas on our anniversary?” Uh, skip and skip — pure logic.
To top it all off, like a great TA, the FAFSA will provide answers to the quiz. Starting this year on Jan. 31, you and your parents can choose to push a button and have an IRS data tool automatically update the income and tax data needed, free-of-charge (if only you could do this for the chemistry lab results). And this leads to the moment where thousands of students cheer as if they were going to Disneyland or had just won the Super Bowl: If you use the IRS data matching tool on the FAFSA, the chances the Financial Aid Office will ask for copies of tax returns are about the same that the hot girl on the elliptical will take out her ear buds to compliment your biceps — slim to none.
So drop the fear. Choosing what to get at Freebirds is much more difficult than putting your hand in the cookie jar of financial aid. Just make sure you reach before March 2, the FAFSA priority deadline for California.