The FAFSA for Beginners

FAFSA for beginners: here's a breakdown of the FAFSA

Flickr user Pete

While researching the financial aspect of applying to college, you will come across the term FAFSA several times. If you are new to the whole college application process, you would probably not be familiar with the term. However, you cannot afford to ignore it. Understanding the FAFSA is crucial. It can make a major difference to the financial aid that you receive to fund your college education. Thus, we’ve put together the FAFSA for beginners.

What Is The FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal government, colleges and universities use the information submitted on this form to determine your eligibility for various forms of financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, federal student loans, college-sponsored financial aid, or educational loans. You will even need it if you plan on participating in any work-study program.

If you are hoping to get any type of financial assistance towards your college education, you must file a FAFSA. Without this form, you may not be eligible for any form of funding. The only option available to you then is to take a private student loan, which can work out to be more expensive.

Filling and Submitting the FAFSA

The first time you fill out the FAFSA is when you are sending out your college applications. As a college student, you must remember to fill and submit the form every year that you are in college if you want to continue receiving financial aid. The form is only valid for the academic year in which it is submitted.

Although the deadline for submitting the form is 30th June, it is always advisable to submit it closer to 1st January, which is the date when submissions open. The earlier you submit your application, the higher your chances of getting a better financial aid package.

The first thing you will need to do is to create a Federal Student Aid ID on the Federal Student Aid website. You will use this ID to access your account and all information regarding your financial aid.

What Information Is Required on the FAFSA?

You will have to provide details about:

  • Your citizenship status
  • Your dependency status and your parents, which could be your biological or adoptive parents. Make sure you read the dependency section carefully as it explains in detail how to answer questions pertaining to different family situations.
  • Your parents’ income, including government aid, and any other financial benefits.

 What Happens Next?

The colleges that you apply to will have access to the information you’ve submitted on the FAFSA. They will use this information to put together an appropriate financial aid package for you. If the aid offered does not cover what you need, you can contact the schools’ financial office to negotiate your aid package. On the other hand, if your financial status has changed and you do not need all of the aid offered to you, you can decline the excess amount and take only what you need.

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