"You Will Feel As If You Are Free."

August 23, 2016

By Tiera LeBlanc, Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance

NCAN members work with students every day whose unwavering aspirations, dedication and perseverance in achieving their educational dreams illustrates the need for federal financial aid policies that concentrate resources where they are needed most. The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance is one such member and Oscar McClain is one of those students. (Read more stories like theirs here.)

To ensure financial aid gets to the students like Oscar who need it most, NCAN recommends three immediate policy improvements for the new president and Congress: #FixFAFSA, keep the promise of the Pell Grant program, and provide work opportunities to low-income students. 

FAFSA. It’s a five-letter acronym that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. For some students, it induces feelings of confusion and thoughts of procrastination. But it also holds the potential to open doors to their dreams. 

College sophomore Oscar McClain is one of those students. He fully realizes the effort it takes to complete the FAFSA, but is grateful for the opportunities it has awarded him.

Oscar is a high-achieving sophomore maintaining a 3.95 grade point average in the chemistry program at Southern University and A&M College, a historically black land-grant institution in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While in the program, Oscar said, “I would like to keep my GPA where it is or make it higher. I also want to continue doing internships to gain as much experience as possible.” 

After graduating, Oscar aspires to work in research at a large company such as Exxon Mobil. But reaching for his dreams and striving for success will not end there for Oscar, who maintains that “there is still more climbing to do.” 

FAFSA helped Oscar start his ascent to his dreams and success, and it can continue to help others do the same. 

But students have to take the time – usually less than an hour – to fill out the form, Oscar acknowledged.

“I prepared by going through each tab to see what information the FAFSA application was asking for,” he said. “Next, I answered everything I knew. Then, I had my mom input her tax information. Lastly, I went through the application again to check for errors.” 

Oscar knew that submitting the FAFSA was important, so he took the necessary steps to ensure he completed the application thoroughly and properly. Likewise, he advised that other students do the same. 

“Fill out the application as soon as possible because you will feel as if you are free,” he said. “Also, check for errors before submitting so there will not be any misunderstandings when the application is reviewed.” 

Finally, if students are questioning the purpose of filing their FAFSA, Oscar offered some words of motivation: “I encourage every student to complete the FAFSA because it is required to receive need-based aid in addition to other forms of aid. Why pass up on that?”

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