What’s a FAFSA and why should I submit one?
FAFSA is the acronym for the Free Application For Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is the online application students need to complete to apply for federal financial aid. This aid can be used to cover the costs of college tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies and transportation. Most students will qualify for some type of federal financial aid. Federal financial aid is less expensive than privately funded student loans, so any amount you receive in federal financial aid saves you money. Filing the FAFSA is free; avoid any websites that want to charge you to submit a FAFSA. Correctly filling out the FAFSA form is fairly easy and straight forward, the user friendly format has been updated for better navigation. The FAFSA website has a FAQ section, and there is a help number, 4.FED.AID – 800.433.3243. Here’s the link to the correct website: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
Federal financial aid is made up of the following:
- Grants -funds for college that do not have to be repaid.
- Work study – part-time employment where you can earn funds while enrolled.
- Federal Loans – borrowed funds, which you must repay with interest.
The FAFSA application is available on January 1st. You should file the FAFSA as soon as possible after this date. Most federal financial aid is awarded on a first come, first serve basis, so filing as soon as possible will ensure you receive all the federal financial aid which you are eligible. Filing early also gives you time to make corrections without holding up your aid award. Do not miss FAFSA deadlines, or you will not be eligible for federal financial aid for that school year. You only need to file FAFSA once per academic year.
4 Steps to FAFSA Submission:
1. Check Deadlines: The FAFSA deadlines for each academic year are located on the FAFSA website. The FAFSA may also be used to apply for other aid sources, such as state aid or aid from your college, which have different deadline requirements. Look at the college website Financial Aid Department notifications and deadlines to find your school deadlines. Applying for FAFSA early is key. The sooner you can apply after January 1st, the better.
2. Gather Documents: You will need the following documents when completing the FAFSA:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your driver’s license
- Your W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
- Your Federal Income Tax Return
- Your Parents Federal Income Tax Return
- You and your parents income records, Veterans non-education benefit records, Child support received, Worker’s compensation, Current bank statement, Current business, investment, mortgage, stock, bond and other investment records
- Colleges you have applied to and are considering attending
3. Get A Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number, PIN: The PIN lets you electronically sign your FAFSA and make corrections to your application. If you have questions about a PIN number go to http://www.pin.ed.gov. You can select a pin number immediately when completing your FAFSA application. Both you and one of your parents need a separate pin number and each of you need to sign the FAFSA with that PIN number.
4. Check your Student Aid Report: After you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report , SAR. This is a summary of your data and provides information on the status of your FAFSA. Review your SAR and submit changes or corrections, if necessary. Check the amount of your Expected Family Contribution, EFC which is provided once you complete the FAFSA.
All of the colleges you list on your FAFSA receive your information once your application has been processed. These colleges may need to verify the information that you provided on your FAFSA, or may require additional information or other documentation. Make sure to submit all additional requirements to your college by the deadlines or your federal student aid might be delayed. Once you have received the award information showing the aid you are being offered, you can contact your college financial aid office, if you have any questions. Realistically, for most students federal financial aid will not cover all college expenses. You will need to search and apply for scholarships to supplement costs if your EFC is higher than you expected. Please check the following post for detailed definitions or questions concerning aid and scholarships: https://counselorholley.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/apply-apply-apply-financial-aid-and-scholarships/.
The College Scholarship Service Profile, CSS profile may also be required. Check the financial aid department notifications on the college website to see if you will need to fill that out also. If they require the CSS, you will need to apply online for the FAFSA and also apply for the CSS, these are two separate documents.
Please leave a comment, suggestion or ask a question. Many parents struggle with getting their taxes completed early for the FAFSA; some college financial aid application deadlines are as early as Mid-February. What is your biggest obstacle in completing the FAFSA?