College is expensive, but relief comes in many forms, including federal student aid. As the application process will open on October 1 for the next class year, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide some insight into federal student aid. Complete information and applications are available at fafsa.ed.gov and studentaid.gov.
High school seniors need to know that federal aid applications are accepted beginning October 1 for next year’s classes. To get the best idea of how much aid you will get, do your best to apply early. Applications will be accepted through June 30, just before college classes typically start. Some states and colleges do have earlier deadlines that apply to state or college aid, and can be reviewed at the FAFSA website or by speaking with the financial aid office of your intended college. Federal aid must be re-applied for every year that a student intends to attend.
The FAFSA is federal student aid that applies students for federal grants, work-study, and loans. Many colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for other kinds of aid. Without the FAFSA, paying for college can be a huge financial burden. In the cases of grants, that money usually does not need to be paid back. Work-study is a way to earn money on campus that is used to pay for your college costs. Loans do need to be paid back, and the terms of those loans can vary.
Applying for federal aid is a good opportunity for parents and students to work through a significant financial process together if the student is a dependent. Gather together social security numbers, alien registration numbers (if applicable), federal income tax returns, W-2s, other records of money earned, bank statements, records of investments (if applicable), records of untaxed income (if applicable), and a FSA ID (which is available through the FAFSA website. For students that are independent, the same records will apply, but only for themselves. The first time may take an hour or so, but when you use the FSA ID, your application process will probably be shorter in the future.
It’s okay to not know which college to consider when you fill out your FAFSA. To add a school to your form after you submit it, simply login to the FAFSA website, and submit a FAFSA Correction to the School Selection page. You can put more than one college on your list, and all the colleges you select will receive your information. Once you have applied for the colleges you desire, you may be contacted by some or all with an admission-offer letter. If you do not apply to the college using their requirements for acceptance, the college might not process your FAFSA information, so be sure to follow your colleges-of-choice requirements to be considered. Letters regarding financial awards (including grants) will typically come with the admission-offer letter as long as you submitted your FAFSA in a timely manner.
To get an idea of how much aid you might receive, visit the White House College Scorecard (collegescorecard.ed.gov) or an online calculator on your college’s website. However, try not to get sticker shock. There may be more opportunities available, depending on your situation. Talk to your high school career counselor about these opportunities so that you do not miss early opportunities, and talk to your college financial aid office to maximize your savings. We plan to write about some of these opportunities in future articles regarding paying for college.
Information provided in this article was found on the FAFSA website, fafsa.ed.gov. Please contact your college’s financial aid office or visit the FAFSA website for financial guidance.
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