Whenever the government is involved you can bet that there are forms to fill out. For federal financial aid, this form is known as the FAFSA or
Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
You will need to provide information on your family, employment, income, and assets. With the exception of Direct or
Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) PLUS Loans, the FAFSA is the only form youíll need to complete to be considered for federal financial aid.
You can get the FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. You can also pick up a paper application from your counselor or financial aid office.
You must complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible AFTER January 1 for each school year. The deadline for submission is typically in July, and there are no extensions or exceptions. Note that individual schools may have earlier deadlines for the FAFSA and for their own financial aid forms to apply for school-specific financial aid. Pay attention to these important deadlines.
If you have applied for federal financial aid before, you may be eligible to complete the Renewal FAFSA, which has information pre-filled from your previous application. Check with your school or the Federal Student Aid Information Center (1-800-4-FED-AID) for more information.
As with all forms, at first glance the FAFSA can seem intimidating. However, if you spend some time working on it, youíll find that the information is relatively straightforward. To help, here are some tips for completing the form.
File the form as soon as possible after January 1. This is an important form.
Complete your income tax forms early. Unless youíre an accountant, there are many more enjoyable things youíd probably rather do, but information from your income tax forms will be very helpful for completing the FAFSA. Plus, while others are stressed and panic-stricken around April 15th, youíll already be done with your taxes.
Follow directions. The Department of Education reports that delays are caused most often because students or parents donít follow directions when completing the FAFSA. Spend the time to read the directions and follow them completely.
Be thorough. Answer questions completely with all of the information requested.
Realize that the FAFSA takes time. Set aside a couple afternoons or evenings to be able to concentrate on completing the form. Donít think that you can complete it during the commercials of your favorite sitcom.
Check with your school, scholarship programs, and fellowship programs to see if any additional forms are required. With the exception of Direct or FFEL PLUS Loans, the FAFSA is the only form you need to complete for federal financial aid. However, for individual schools, scholarship programs, and fellowship programs, you may need to complete additional forms. Ask them.
Donít think youíre on your own. Use the help provided by your school and by the government. The Department of Education has an entire staff of people dedicated to assisting you with completing the necessary forms and answering your questions about financial aid.
What Happens After Your Submit The FAFSA
Once youíve submitted the FAFSA, the Department of Education will process your application and in two to four weeks provide you with the
Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR reflects the information that you submitted in the FAFSA and provides your
Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) or how much you will be expected to pay with your own money. Your responsibility is to review the SAR and, if necessary, submit any corrections to the Department of Education.
Using your SAR and EFC, your school will develop a financial aid package. The schoolís goal is to meet your Financial Need, which is the difference between the Cost of Attendance (total estimated cost of attending a specific college including tuition, room and board, books, travel, and personal expenses) and your EFC.
The FAFSA is an important part of your overall financial aid package. Even if you think you are not eligible for financial aid, you should still complete the form. Itís free and you might be surprised at what you are offered. A low interest loan with deferred payments may be just what you need to make ends meet.
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