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FAFSA window opens for high schoolers across the nation

The annual window for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened across the nation on Thursday, Oct. 1 and Yuma Union High School District schools are already imploring seniors to prioritize filling it out.

As a reminder, students should fill out the form for the 2021-22 school year.  

Students can access the application online at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa, while juniors and underclassmen can process a “practice” application to help them understand what types of aid may be available in the future as well as get a Federal Student Aid identification number to help expedite the application process later. 

“Academically, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to be where I am at today without filling out the FAFSA,” San Luis High School Counseling Director Cesar Castillo said. “I wouldn’t have had an education to be a teacher first, and then go back to school, filling out my FAFSA again, for my master’s degree. Everything that I’ve been able to accomplish, I can honestly say it started from doing the right thing, and filling out the FAFSA.”

More than 1,500 YUHSD seniors completed a FAFSA last year, the fourth consecutive year the number has increased in the district. San Luis High School was the top ranked “large” school in Arizona, according to the state’s FAFSA Challenge, with 64 percent of its 634 seniors completing the form. Additionally, Gila Ridge High School won the 21-day virtual challenge award for having the largest percentage increase in FAFSA completion rate from the previous year.

YUHSD schools have set goals to increase their numbers again in 2020-21 and are regularly sharing information on their social media accounts to promote FAFSA completion. This includes how-to videos, graphics, and helping dispel FAFSA “myths.”

To help students and families receive answers to their questions, YUHSD introduced a FAFSA chat bot named “Benji” during the 2019-20 school year. Benji is programmed to respond to more than 600 questions in English and Spanish, and can be accessed for free by texting (602) 786-8171. Of course, questions can also be directed to the school’s counseling office.