The most daunting thing after finishing high school is enrolling in college. Good colleges come with high price tags, and scholarships are normally limited to those with exemplary academic or athletic achievements. College life can be financially demanding, not only in terms of annual course fee, but through social expenditure too. We should a financial backup to enable us support ourselves during college, and when that support is made available, life becomes more manageable. The good news is that support is available.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is important to apply to before you enter your college. It is the form that the federal government, states and colleges refer when granting scholarships, work study, and student loans. Work-study dollars have to be earned and loans have to be paid back; however, grants and scholarships are not required to be paid back.
To begin with the application process, find your form at fafsa.ed.gov and follow the details below.
Get your FSA ID
The Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is your key to filling in the FAFSA form online and getting access to information pertaining to your financial aid. This also includes the repayment amount still owing on student loans. In case of a dependent, the guardian or the parent is required to get his or her own FSA ID.
This ID is used to create your FAFSA which comprise of about 100 questions that you need to answer. For your convenience, your progress can be saved for up to 45 days.
Getting the Right Documents
You, or whoever is getting your FAFSA done, need the following documents to be able to successfully accomplish FAFSA.
– Social Security number
– 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns, records of any untaxed income, and W-2 forms.
– Records of investment and bank statements
– Alien Registration number for Non-US citizens
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
To speed up your application process and prevent errors, using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool transfers the federal tax return information directly into your FAFSA. In the financial information section, you can click on the “Link to IRS” button so that form can be prefilled with your information.
List Colleges to Be Applied
School codes are available within the online application, and you can apply for up to 10 schools. However, the paper version of FAFSA limits this number to four schools. The schools you’ve applied to receive your FAFSA information for their financial aid.
Additional financial aid forms of specific colleges
Some colleges demand additional financial aid applications or another standardized application form commonly called the CSS or Financial Aid Profile. Some states have a separate Financial Aid application; therefore, it is suggested that you find out if your state’s colleges demand an additional application.
Student Aid Report be reviewed
After the acceptance letters from colleges have been sent to you, the awarded financial aid letter will show some need-based or non-need-based federal and state aid grants. Availability of aids does not imply that you are bound to accept them. Loans should be carefully borrowed, and should be borrowed strictly if you really need them as they come with a price tag.
Additional things to keep in mind about FAFSA:
- Your FAFSA requires renewal if you wish to continue benefitting with the aid. Hence, if you have filled in the application for the first time, it is advised that the renewal form be submitted in subsequent years. If your financial situation has changed significantly, you may start again.
- You can also and click on “Make FAFSA correction” if you need to update information, or if you find some mistake in your Student Aid Report.
- If you are unsatisfied with the award and have a genuine reason to appeal that you deserve more, you can appeal your financial aid award with the financial aid office in your college.
- You may want to keep a close eye on the deadlines, since some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
FAFSA can really prove to be an advantage for you as long as you carefully consider the above-mentioned tips, and are capable of executing the steps successfully and correctly, you can gain the benefits provided by the state.