FAFSA: It’s Really Not That Difficult

The rumors surrounding FAFSA (The Free Application For Federal Student Aid) cause some students to completely omit applying for federal financial aid. While filing for FAFSA may not be as easy as taking a nap or watching TV, with the correct preparation filing FAFSA is really not that difficult.

I don’t even know what FAFSA is?
Federal financial aid can be used to cover the costs of your college’s tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation.
FAFSA is your gateway to receiving all federal financial aid for college. If you do not file a FAFSA you will not be considered for any federal financial aid.
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.

I Am Not Going To File FAFSA Because I will not qualify for any federal financial aid.
While federal financial aid is need based aid, you will not know what you qualify for until you file a FAFSA. 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 will save you money. Filing the FAFSA is free, so you lose nothing by applying.

FAFSA is too difficult and time consuming.
FASFA has made changes to its application process recently in an effort to make applying for federal financial aid easier on applicants. With the correct preparation filling out the FAFSA form is fairly easy and straight forward. The FAFSA website has an extensive FAQ section, and there is a free help number (1-800-433-3243) with staff available to assist you with any questions.

When Should I Apply For FAFSA?

The FAFSA application is available on January 1st of any given year. You should file your FAFSA as soon as possible after this date. Some federal financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis, so filing as soon as possible will ensure you receive all the federal financial aid you are eligible for. Filing early also gives you ample time to make any corrections without it holding up your aid award. Do not miss the FAFSA deadline, or you will not be eligible for federal financial aid for that school year. You only need to file FAFSA once per academic year.

Completing FAFSA In 6 Easy Steps:

1. Check The Deadlines.
The FAFSA deadlines for each academic year are located on the FAFSA website, however 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. Ask your high school guidance counselor or a financial aid administrator at your college when these deadlines are. Applying for FAFSA early is key. The sooner you can apply after January 1st of the given year, the better.

2. Get A Federal Student Aid PIN.
The PIN lets you electronically sign your FAFSA and make corrections to your application. You will need this if you are completing your FAFSA online. To apply for a PIN go to www.pin.ed.gov.

3. Gather Your 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 (if you are a dependent student)

You will also need the following if applicable:

– Your untaxed 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
– Alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

4. Check your Student Aid Report (SAR).
After you submit your FAFSA, Federal Student Aid will send you 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, if necessary, submit changes or corrections.

5. Verification.
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, which may require you to submit additional information or other documents. Make sure to submit all additional requirements (if applicable) to your college by the deadlines or your federal student aid will be delayed.

6. Receive Award Information and Follow Up With Colleges.
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.

Funding College Beyond FAFSA

Realistically, for most students federal financial aid will not cover all college expenses. You should be prepared to supplement your federal financial aid with other forms of aid. Most experts recommend that students should begin researching non-federal college aid sources in their junior year of high school, to learn what they will need to do in order to apply.

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