Show Me the Money: Filling Out the FAFSA 2

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

No one likes to think about money when getting all of their college ducks in order, but unless you’re that 20-year-old guy from Florida who recently won a $451 million lottery jackpot, you’re going to have to consider how you’ll pay for your next year of schooling. Luckily, it’s that time of year when there’s one document in particular that can help you jump-start the process: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

This application, which is usually made available in October of the previous year before the year you plan to enroll, lets you know whether you’re eligible for a host of federal, state, and college financial aid based on your financial need, including grants that don’t have to be paid back (such as the Pell Grant), subsidized and non-subsidized loans (including the Stafford and Perkins loans), and work-study initiatives.

Three Options for Filling out the FAFSA

There are three ways you can complete your FAFSA: online at fafsaed.gov (the recommended process), via a paper copy (sometimes available at your high school or college or local library, but mainly right from the US Department of Education by calling 800-433-3243), or by filling in and mailing a PDF FAFSA—you can either print it out and fill it in manually, or use the screen-fillable option online, which allows you to type in the fields directly in the PDF.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a whole bunch of info at your disposal while filling out this form, which will take you an hour or so to do. This info includes your Social Security number; financial info, in the form of bank statements, tax forms, mortgage and investment records, and government aid, for both yourself and your parents, if you’re still a dependent; and your driver’s license number, if you have a license. In addition to all of that data, you’ll also need to input every single college or university you’re interested in, even if you haven’t yet applied to them, so make sure you have your higher-education dream list on hand as well.

The Student Aid Report

Once you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll receive a report a few days later called a SAR, or Student Aid Report, either by email or regular mail. This document details what you and your family will be expected to contribute (aka the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC) and what financial aid possibilities may be available for your particular situation. Check this document carefully for mistakes, as this will be sent to all of the colleges and universities you put down on your application. Colleges will use this info when they work up their financial aid letters to you upon acceptance.

If you’re already in college and still seeking federal aid for the 2017-2018 school year, you can still fill out an online FAFSA for federal aid to meet the June 30, 2018, deadline. For the 2018-2019 school year, you have more buffer time for federal aid (that deadline falls on June 30, 2019), but deadlines for individual states and colleges vary and are fast approaching; most states set their deadlines early in the calendar year, usually in February and March, though some push further into the spring and summer. That means state deadlines for 2018 and 2019 are coming up within a month or two—be sure to check on the fafsaedu.gov site or with colleges you’ll be attending or hope to attend for specifics.

Some final warnings: Don’t get suckered into FAFSA preparation companies that charge for their services and don’t warn you that you can do this for free yourself or that offer a guarantee they can get you a scholarship. And don’t neglect to fill out the FAFSA because you think you or your family won’t qualify for any of the big federal grants or loans. States and colleges use the application to make their own determinations as well. You don’t want to cheat yourself out of financial aid that could be yours for the taking!

Getting Ready for College as a High School Senior Reply

Student Loan

Student loans and scholarship money.

It’s crunch time for high school seniors preparing for college. For many, the end of the prior school year and the summer before senior year was spent applying for scholarships and grants  and spent September applying to colleges.. Most students will have a decision from the colleges they have applied to by April, but there are things that need to be done before then.

Finishing up scholarship applications:

High school seniors should be finishing up the application process for most of their scholarship requests. It is important to review the scholarship application deadlines as well as ensure that all requested information for each scholarship is completed correctly. Many scholarships are very competitive and incomplete or incorrectly completed applications are often not considered. Others may require essays or letters of recommendation or transcripts. It is important to take the time with each scholarship that has not already been submitted to ensure that all requirements have been accurately completed.

Even though college starts in the fall, it is not too late to continue to look for other scholarship opportunities. This may be a good time to check with local social and philanthropic organisations in within the community for further opportunities. College expenses add up quickly and any extra fund sources, even smaller scholarships, are worth the time to investigate.

Two misconceptions regarding completing the FAFSA:

It is time to complete the FAFSA application, if it has not been completed already. Some students and parents think that they must wait until after 2016 income taxes are completed. Others think that they cannot apply for financial aid until they have been accepted by a college. Neither of these are true. FAFSA applications can be completed prior to income tax returns, and can be amended once the returns are completed. If a student has applied for more than one college, information on all colleges can be included in the FAS application.

With the FAFSA application, timing is everything. Many of the grants and financial aid options offered by the FAFSA are offered on a first come, first served basis. The sooner the application is completed, the more opportunities for financial aid will be available.

Most applications to college are decided in March or April. If a student has applied for Early Decision or Early Action, then likely he or she has already received the decision. It is important to speak with admissions counselors and understand the complete admissions process. Regardless of the admissions process for the individual college, having the FAFSA completed will simplify the process.

Learn more about what seniors in high school should be doing for college applications with Peterson’s.

Fill Out Your FAFSA Early to Help You Estimate Your EFC Reply

497001580

College money

Navigating the financial aid process can be confusing and difficult, especially when trying to calculate your estimated family contribution (EFC) on your FAFSA application. Your EFC is a number that determines your eligibility to receive federal student financial aid. This number is calculated by a formula that is established by federal law, and includes your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (unemployment, Social Security, etc.), family size, and other family members who will attend college. Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own. The US Department of Education makes a lot of great tools to help you estimate the aid you will receive.

First, if you are a high school junior scoping out colleges to attend after you graduate, you should start in January so that you can find out what the cost of attendance (COA) is for each of your prospective colleges. Depending on how much tuition and room and board is going to be, it will help you decide which colleges are worth spending time on.

So, how do you calculate your EFC? After you’ve filled out your FAFSA, this number will be available to you after the FAFSA has been fully processed. Though you are able to fill out your FAFSA between January 1st and June 30th for the same calendar year, you should file the application as soon as they are available so that you don’t miss out on any aid. You will have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college, so it is good to get familiar with the process.

However, if you want to estimate your EFC before filling out your FAFSA, there are many free tools online to help you do that. On the Department of Education website, they have a FAFSA4caster that will give you an estimate of your eligibility for need-based and non-need based aid, including federally subsidized and unsubsidized loans and other grants to help you pay for school.

Find out what your EFC is with a free calculator.