I could have found better things to do with my time.
I could have been out celebrating Halloween with friends. I could have enjoyed the final minutes of an interesting Clemson-Florida State college football game. I could have even caught up on some writing. (Goodness knows my blog needs more than a little attention.)
However, my children, my 20-year-old college sophomore and my 17-year-old high school senior, needed my wife and I fill out and electronically submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Pain and suffering
All students interested in financial aid for college need to complete the form. In a change from previous years, the government made the form available to students to file for the 2017–18 school year starting earlier this month, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date is a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA earlier in the college enrollment process.
While happy that the tedious and mind-numbing form was available, I dreaded having to complete it. I kept finding excuses to put the form aside, the grass needed mowing, my other son needed dropped off, the house needed to be cleaned, etc., etc.
For most people the FAFSA is pain. Who likes scrolling through IRS tax forms, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, all electronically speaking? For someone like me who loses interest at the slightest bit of jargon-filled, bureaucratic tax-speak, the FAFSA is even worse.
I would rather take on a herd of wildebeests, stay awake through another Trump-Clinton presidential debate and even listen to the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard then fill out two different FAFSA’s for my kids. I hate the finite nature of the process. It doesn’t look at the merit of the student, whether my son or daughter have worked hard to put themselves in a good position for college. It comes down to simple money and cents.
The early bird gets the worm
States often award aid until they run out of money—first come, first served—so my wife and I obviously wanted to jump on the process. So while I would have enjoyed kicking back and enjoying my hard-earned weekend, I reminded myself that my kids needed me.
In the end, I came away with three valuable lessons:
–Be grateful. In filling out the form, we had to answer whether our kids have ever spent time in foster care. My kids have had to deal with my horrible jokes and even some lame parenting mistakes on more than a few occasions, but fortunately we’ve been there every step of the way with them. On any given day, there are approximately 415,000 children in foster care in the U.S., according to the most recent Federal data. Like it or not, my kids have had someone on their side, fighting for them. I know the question made me feel for the kids who aren’t so lucky.
—My wife and I work better as a team. While painful, filling out the FAFSA went much quicker with my wife’s help. On my own, I played on Facebook and procrastinated. The work — if you can call it that — suffered and came to a grinding halt. With my wife, it flew. I certainly had a better attitude.
—Finally, take a moment to smell the roses. I was struck early in filling out the form that while it feels like my daughter finished up high school just a month or two ago, when she heads back to school next fall, she will actually be entering her junior year. She’s more than half way toward her goal of getting a bachelor’s degree. I was dumbfounded. On top of that, what’s up with my son? I’m still getting used to the idea of him driving, when did he accumulate enough credits to graduate high school? I made a note to enjoy the next two years.
Let’s hope I remember these lessons when I go to file my taxes in 2017. However, something tells me they’ll be long forgotten.