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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • FAFSA Night at Flora High School

  • FAFSA? What’s a FAFSA?


    On the evening of Thursday, February 1, students and the parents came out to fill out FAFSA or Free Application For Financial Aid forms at the computer lab of Flora High School.


    Coming out for FAFSA night got the students and parents the assistance of Audra Clodfelter of the Illinois Student Aid Commission and FHS teacher and Advisor Brian Ridge.


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  • FAFSA? What’s a FAFSA?
    On the evening of Thursday, February 1, students and the parents came out to fill out FAFSA or Free Application For Financial Aid forms at the computer lab of Flora High School.
    Coming out for FAFSA night got the students and parents the assistance of Audra Clodfelter of the Illinois Student Aid Commission and FHS teacher and Advisor Brian Ridge.
    This is important stuff, sure, but why?
    “Everybody is going to college,” says Ridge. “Especially if you are a first generation person, the federal government has programs to step in and give you money to help with tuition, books and fees.”
    So getting your FAFSA form filled out can bring money in for a student. But only a handful of students and parents were present at the event. Still, according to Clodfelter, this was a bigger crowd than last year’s event.
    Ridge tries to shed some light on a few reasons why the crowd was small.
    “They’re busy and this is way down on the list of priorities,” he said, moreover, “I think a lot of them do it at home and they don’t need our help.”
    Clodfelter has a list of all the people who have turned in a FAFSA form from FHS and according to Ridge, “It’s a lot more than the people that showed up last night.”
    “So there’s a whole bunch of people that filled it out and they didn’t come to us for help,” Ridge went on speaking about how a lot of frustration with the FAFSA goes away once a family has been through the process once, and, “A lot of these kids have brothers and sisters that have done it, so they know how to do it.”
    Still, a lot of programs offered are income based. “It’s kind of intimidating because they’re asking a lot of questions about money and taxes and it’s kind of intrusive,” Ridge said. “It’s like the government is peering into your private life, which they are.” With programs based on financial need, the government needs to find out where a family really stands.
    The FAFSA is just one part of paying for school though. As an advisor, Ridge helps students discover some of the avenues that are available to them.
    “I talk to every junior and every senior in this building,” Ridge said. “We make accessible to them a multitude of scholarship opportunities.”
    Ridge says there are three levels of scholarships, local, state and national.
    “The local scholarships, we pretty much take care of.” said Ridge. For those, students are, “Competing with the other kids at your school.
    State Scholarships, you’re competing with every kid in the state of Illinois,”
    Page 2 of 2 - As for National scholarships, the field of possible applicants can be huge, but that isn’t a reason to discount them.
    CVS has one, CellOne has one, Taco Bell even has one; everybody’s got a scholarship, and a lot of people don’t fill them out because they don’t think they’re gonna get it, but we’ve had kids from this school win national scholarships.” According to Ridge, “You can’t win them unless you try.”
    “My analogy is, if you go fishing in the Atlantic Ocean with a little dip net like you’d go fishing in an aquarium for a goldfish, you’re not going to catch much,” Going on, Ridge says, “But if you cast a six mile long drift net, you might pull something in. Would it be a long shot to get one? Yes. But some of these give out $5,000 or $10,000, so give it a shot.”
    Ridge says he directs students to search for scholarship by beginning with Google, typing in the area they want to study in, and start going through and seeing which ones you qualify for.

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