FAFSA is the free application for student aid, federal grants, loans, and work-study. It is a free application that can be either completed online, or via a paper application. The FAFSA application gives you the most access to financial aid to pay for your college education.
Things To Know About FAFSA
To be eligible for federal student aid, you must me a citizen or eligible non-citizen with a valid social security number (some exemptions apply), and have a high school diploma or General Education Development(GED) certificate. You must also be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student, as well as maintaining satisfactory academic progress while enrolled. Maintaining good status on your student loans is also critical, as falling into default on your student loans will immediately disqualify you from further aid. If you are a male under the age of 26, you must also register for Selective Service.
How Much Aid Can You Receive
The amount you are eligible to borrow will be determined on various factors such as:
- Your year in college
- The cost of attendance at your college
- Your Expected Family Contribution(EFC)
Grants are awarded on a need basis and generally do not need to be repaid. The four most common grants are:
- Pell Grant – Awarded to undergraduate students who are still currently working on their bachelors degree. The maximum you can receive during the 2014-2015 school year is currently $5,550. The actual amount that would be received will depend on each individuals students financial situation, along with the cost of attendance, enrollment status. A student can be eligible for Pell Grants for 12 semesters.
- TEACH Grants – The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant is awarded to students who are pursing a teaching career and plan on teaching at a low income school. If once the teacher graduates college and does not fulfill the obligation to teacher at a lower income school, the grant can become a loan and be due and payable to the lender.
- Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants – This grant is for students who parents or guardians were members of the armed forces and died as a result of performing military duties after Sept 11th 2001. The student must be under 24 years of age at the time of the parents or guardians death.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant(FSEOG)– This grant is awarded to undergrad students with exceptional financial need.
For the 2014-2015 academic year, your FAFSA application must be completed and submitted between January 1st, 2014 until June 30th, 2015. Corrections can be submitted at a later date, but no later than September 19th, 2015. If you will also be applying for state financial aid, you will want to check your individuals state deadline. Its important to remember that you will need to complete a FAFSA in each year you are applying for federal aid. The application does not carry from year to year. Due to this, your financial aid can differ as well depending on the various items that affect your ability to get aid, such as family financial situation, etc.
Preparing To Apply for Federal Student Aid
Before you apply for federal student aid, it will be important to gather all the necessary documentation and information that will be required for your FAFSA. The whole application process should take around an hour if you have everything ready and prepared at the time of completing the application. Things to gather before starting the application are:
- Social Security Number (or Alien Reg. Number if a non-citizen)
- Your most recent federal tax returns, W-2’s, and all other records of any money that was earned during the last tax period.
- All bank statements and records of other investments or holds you have
- Records of untaxed income
- A Federal Student Aid Pin which can be applied for here
What About My Parents or Guardians Information?
In some cases, your parents or guardian information is not required when applying for federal student aid. If you can answer YES to ANY of the following questions, you will be considered an independent student and you will not need to provide your parents information.
- Were you born before January 1, 1991?
- As of today are you married?
- At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
- Do you now have or will you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015?
- Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2015?
- At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
- As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
- As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
If you answer NO to all of these questions, then for the purpose of federal student aid you are considered a dependent and must provide parental information on your FAFSA.
What If My Taxes Are Not Completed Yet or I Cannot Find Them
If you or your parents have not yet completed your latest tax returns, you can estimate your current income on your FAFSA, and later make a correction once your taxes have been filed. If you have filed taxes but cannot locate them, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval tool. This will be possible when you are completing the FAFSA and get to the section which gives you the option to “View option to link to the IRS”. You can also visit the IRS website to apply to receive your tax transcripts either online, or through the mail.
What Happens When The Application is Submitted
Once your application is submitted, it will typically take 3-5 days for the department of education to review and submit your application. Shortly after that, you will receive a student aid report which will provide you with a summary of all the information which you provided on your FAFSA application. If there is missing or incomplete information, you will be able to make the corrections during that time. Your student aid report will also be sent to the various colleges which you put on your FAFSA. These college will then make the determination on your eligibility for student aid, as well as disbursing the funds to you. You can always log back into the FAFSA to check the status of your application.
Where do I begin
You will want to visit the FAFSA homepage to get started.