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FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is a federal program offered through the government. FAFSA is a form for Federal Student Aid that may be used by states, local governments, the federal governments, colleges, and many other organizations as a means of awarding financial aid. By submitting your form either online or by mail, you will be able to get access to specific grants, scholarships, and other work-student programs as well as federal student loans.
By completing the FAFSA form, you are taking the very crucial first step in making plans for college. Before we move any further, there are a few things you should look into prior to going out and borrowing a loan. You may want to consider the following.
To get a better idea of what you can qualify for, FAFSA is the number one place you should start. Did you know you can also apply for FAFSA every year that you are in college? This process generally only takes about 30 minutes to complete. If you are ready to take the first step to get free money towards college click the button below.
One of the first steps to filling out the FAFSA is to create a Federal Student Aid ID. By creating your own FSA ID, you will be able to gain access to the Federal Student Aid’s online system. This system will allow you to not only apply for aid but will also allow you to use your legal signature for applications. You will be able to use this ID over the next few years as you continue to apply for financial aid as well as a means of looking at student loans and repayment options after you graduate. In the event that you’re a dependent student, you will want to have either your parent or guardian make their own FSA ID.
This should be a quick process. Simply follow the on-screen instructions and you will be ready to complete the form in no time. Create your FSA ID here.
Getting the required documents ready before applying for FAFSA will save you both time and headaches. Here is a list of the items that you will likely need to have in order to complete the FAFSA form.
If you are a U.S. citizen and dependent student:
If you are a U.S. citizen and independent student:
If you are not a U.S. citizen and dependent student:
If you are not a U.S. citizen and independent student:
One of the most important sections to fill out is the section involving your family circumstances. Below we will break down a few of the different options that you can choose from. We understand that each situation is completely different and there is no one size fits all solution for all family situations.
Family Structure (dependent students) For a full breakdown of what this status means, please head over to the FAFSA website.
Family Structure (for independent students)
A great way to speed up the FAFSA application process is to use a tool created by the IRS that allows for you to move the previous year’s tax information into your FAFSA application. With this tool, you can retrieve all prior tax information (for the years of 2016 – 2017) and add it to your FAFSA application to avoid mistakes. In the application process you should see a section that requires financial information, once you are on that page you will want to click on the “Link to IRS” tab. This should prefill out all of the financial information pertaining to your previous year’s taxes.
When filling out the FAFSA form you will be asked to select up to 10 schools that you desire to go to. Each school through this program has a different code associated with it. Luckily, the team at FAFSA has set up a great tool that allows you to find the codes for your desired school. You can look up your school’s code here through the Federal Student Aid website. One thing to note is that if you are applying via the paper application, you are limited to just four total school codes.
Please note that if you did not decide where you wanted to apply by the October 1st deadline, you will want to make a list of all the schools you would like to apply to and submit those to FAFSA as quickly as possible. In the event that you change your mind or want to drop a school, you can easily update your profile within FAFSA to remove or add additional schools. Every school that you list as interested will receive all of your FAFSA information in regards to receiving financial aid.
Once you have completed your FAFSA application, you will want to find out if your state or any other colleges that you have applied to require additional forms. Some states and schools will require additional financial documents prior to receiving the financial aid. These forms can be in multiple facets but are commonly seen as one of the following: a College scholarship, grant application and in some cases other standardized forms such also referred to as a CSS / Financial Aid Profile. Outside of these, it is recommended that you check out if your state requires any additional financial information after submitting your FAFSA application.
At some point, after you have completed your FAFSA application you will receive what is called a Student Aid Report. This report is a summary of everything you submitted on your FAFSA. The report will either be emailed to you or be mailed to you through traditional snail mail. The general consensus in terms of a timeline is about three days to three weeks after you submit your application. If you are interested in viewing the report, you can log in to FAFSA.ED.GOV. While you are there, it is a good idea to check to see if you have made any mistakes and correct them. If you are the backend of the FAFSA website and it says that your profile is incomplete, you will need to follow the appropriate steps to correct the issues that you see.
Some key things to note in your report:
As a precaution and to get more information from you, some colleges may require or request additional information from you. In the event that you have been selected to go through this process, you will generally be contacted by the school’s financial aid office, or in some cases, you may see an indication on your financial Student Aid Report. Before you think you may have done something wrong being selected, don’t worry. Some schools do require that anyone who is applying to go to school at a particular university go through the process. In other cases, it may be completely randomized. In the event you are selected, you will be asked to submit documents to support what you claimed when you filled out your FAFSA application.
Once you have completed your FAFSA application, it is very important to go over it again to make sure that there are no mistakes. In the event that you do find a mistake, you will want to correct it as soon as possible to avoid any delays in approval. As we have talked about previously, you will want to stay on top of this form and make sure that if anything changes such as dependency status changes or you are choosing to add or delete a school, you update those changes right away. In the event that you did your FAFSA application online, you will want to login to your account and look for a section that states the following “Make FAFSA Corrections”.
After you have received your college acceptance letters, you should shortly thereafter receive a financial aid award letter from each and every school that accepted you. Based on your financial situation among other factors, the award letters that you receive will vary in amounts from both a need-based point of aid as well as a non-need-based point of aid. These may vary depending on where you have applied and the location in which the school is, meaning colleges in California and New York may provide you with more income because the cost of living is higher. The aid itself will come in different amounts on both a state and federal aid level. In some cases, you may receive aid from the colleges themselves, although this is less common.
One thing to remember is that just because you qualify and are eligible for a specific type of student aid, it does not mean that you necessarily have to take it. As a general guideline, it is recommended that you try and take all the free money you can prior to taking out any student loans. In the event that you need to take our private student loans only take out what you need to. Finally, consider that just because you qualify for a high loan amount does not mean that you need to take out the full loan amount. It is crucial to only take out what is needed as you will have to pay these loans back at some point.
As a guideline, here are a few examples of financial aid options that you can acquire through FAFSA:
In some cases, FAFSA will not take into account changes within your finances. This can happen from time to time so it is very important to take a look at what you were awarded to see if you may qualify for more. As an example, let’s say one of your parents lose their job and become unemployed or someone from your immediate family is dealing with major health issues and their medical bills are mounting. Those significant hits to your financials and should be considered as such. If this has happened to you, you do have the option to apply for an appeal through the financial aid office for the school you applied to. In the event that you do appeal, there are a few things to consider. First, you may not get any more money even though you provide financial evidence of hardship or other financial strains. Second, the appeal process is generally not a fast process, so you may find yourself waiting for quite a while in some cases. Lastly, it is definitely worth giving it a shot, especially if your financial situation has changed right before or during the review process for FAFSA.
As a reminder, you will need to go into FAFSA and submit for it each and every year that you are in school in order to be able to receive financial aid. The good thing here is that once you have filled it out once, you can simply fill out a renewal request each year thereafter. Once you have made it to the renewal process, you will be asked to fill out some questions in regards to some of the past forms that you have filled out. Finally, before you submit everything, make sure that you update everything prior to applying. As a pro tip, in the event that your financial situation has changed very drastically, you may / will want to consider reapplying altogether.
Every single student in the United States is eligible to apply for FAFSA. The one thing to note here is that not everyone is going to qualify or receive financial aid. None the less you should still apply to see if you will be able to get any additional assistance towards your schooling. If you are interested to get a ball park number of what you may be able to qualify for, you can head over to FAFSA4Caster. Please remember that these are just estimates and may not be the actual amount that you qualify for.
Another important thing to remember is that each person’s financial situation and eligibility will be different. For example, students who are trying to qualify for a grant or scholarship may not meet the qualifications as these types of financial awards are generally merit-based. In the event that you need additional funding outside of what you receive from FAFSA, you can always look into private student loans or federal student loans through the government.
Absolutely. FAFSA is absolutely 100% free. There are no fees associated with FAFSA. Simply fill out your application and you will be qualified for student loan aid. The application is free and can save you money from having to taking out federal student loans.
Over the last year or so, the Department of Education has decided to start allowing applications to FAFSA to start earlier. This means you are now going to be able to start applying at the beginning of October. You use to have to wait until January to apply for FAFSA. As of today, you can start applying for FAFSA for the school year of 2018 – 2019 starting on October 1st, 2017.
Another big change that happened recently was in relation to the tax information that is supplied regarding your FAFSA application. When you are applying, it is now recommended that you use the prior-prior year’s tax information in order to complete FAFSA. This means that at this time you will want to use your tax information from 2016 in order to complete all the forms for 2018 – 2019 forms.