OH. THE. HORROR. Yes, we understand your fears completely when it comes to the FAFSA (aka. The Free Application For Federal Student Aid.) It’s one of those necessary evils when it comes to getting a federal grant, loan, or state grants for college tuition. The benefits can be so very helpful, but getting the application processed and accepted by both FAFSA and your college can be another story!
However, with determination and a good bit of forethought you can take advantage of what the FAFSA has to offer. We’ve gathered a few pointers that will help you and your family navigate this process as smoothly as possible.
Start Early. Can I repeat START EARLY. This is definitely a key point to remember! The new FAFSA guidelines allow for students to start as early as October for the following year’s fall semester. So, if you’ve heard about the NEW FAFSA guidelines, don’t worry that pretty much sums it up. You can begin filing as early as October. This is really a huge convenience, because often the process of verifying your FAFSA information with your college takes a good bit of time. Colleges can randomly select specific students for a verification process over and above the typical FAFSA application process. This becomes time consuming because your college has hundreds of other freshman seeking federal aid all at the same time. The early October filing date will hopefully alleviate the time delay.
Both you and your parent should register for an FSA ID. You can do this within the FAFSA link.
Have all your and your parents’ financial and personal information handy. This will include your social security number, your driver’s license number, your most recent tax records, and information regarding any assets you or your parents might have.
Have a list of all colleges that you have applied to. If you are filing your FAFSA in October the year before you start college, you many not have been accepted to a college yet. Simply, fill out the information for EACH college that you are interested in. Once, you are accepted and make formal application, the college will take it from there.
Double check your FAFSA application before submitting. An error on your FAFSA can hold it up indefinitely. Make sure you’ve double checked before submitting, and then be sure to watch for the email that lets you know you’ve submitted successfully. After all of that, when you’ve applied to college be sure to keep an eye out for their financial award letter/email. Once the financial awards are given, you’ll still have to accept or deny them in your student account.
Don’t forget state money. Some colleges will automatically pull over the state financial aid once you’ve submitted your FAFSA. However, it is wise to double check everything. Make sure that you’ve maximized the financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Don’t forget you MUST file every year you attend college and wish to receive financial aid. Remember the new FAFSA guidelines – you can file in October for the next school year. Take advantage of that and do it every year once you start back to school. After the first year, it will go more smoothly – we promise! You’ll get to be an old pro at it before you know.
For more scholarship information be sure to check out our quarterly articles on finding and applying for college scholarships.