College is expensive and every passing year sees more increases in tuition and fees. Many students today feel a level of anguish worrying about finding ways to pay their way through college. Even with part (or full) time jobs, most students need to take out loans to supplement their tuition every academic year.
The good news is there are other ways which can possibly help you afford pursuing your higher education. If you meet specified criteria, you may be eligible to receive federal grants to help you pay for college.
The thing you need to do when you apply for federal grants is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is the first step in applying for financial aid and it is a required document. The FAFSA can be filed online or you can file it with a paper application, but your submission will be processed much faster if you do it over the web.
WHAT YOU NEED TO FILE FAFSA
E-mail will be the primary means of communication when you file your FAFSA so before starting the filing process, be sure you have a working and valid email address. Once you have this established you should apply for a PIN number at www.fafsa.ed.gov/. This number will serve as an electronic verification of identity when it comes time to submit your application; it will also be your means to access your submitted application to update any information or changes if the need arises.
Before you file, you’ll need to spend time collecting information. You will need your most recent income taxes, and if you are under 24, you will also need your parents’ income tax information. Other information you’ll need handy is your social security number, driver’s license, recent bank statements, and any other untaxed financial income details.
You will also be required to have the school codes for the college you are attending. If you are unsure about which college you’ll be attending, you can list codes for the schools you are considering or are still awaiting to hear from admissions. You can find school codes on the FAFSA webpage or you can ask your school’s financial aid office.
TIPS ABOUT FILING
As soon as you have all the pertinent information you’ll need to file, you should send in your FAFSA application as soon as possible. Usually the annual deadline date is around June 30, but many universities and state aid departments require an earlier deadline; it’s a good idea to check to see what the filing date is at your school. The earlier you file, traditionally the quicker your application is processed.
When you apply for federal grants to pay for college, it is important to be aware that there are many websites which claim to help you file your FAFSA application. Some of the sites are scams, and others are legitimate, but may charge you a fee. Filing for federal grants should never cost you a dime. The official website to get information about federal aid and subsequently file your application is located at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
If you need help filing or have any questions about the application, you can call your school or the 1-800 telephone number listed on the application. Your financial aid office at school is probably your best bet if you run into any questions or concerns.
Shortly after you file your completed application, you will receive a document listing your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution). This figure will be sent to your schools and will be used to determine your eligibility for aid. It is important to fill out your FAFSA application as complete as possible because leaving out information may delay your application and prevent you from receiving timely aid if you are qualified.
Eligibility is determined by financial need. Your annual income and personal assets will be considered and if you are a dependent student, your parents’ will be examined as well when determining need. Once this examination has been done and you qualify, you will receive an award letter indicating how much money you have been granted. Hold onto this letter because you will need to submit it to your financial aid office after you register for classes.
To continue receiving grants, an updated FAFSA is required every year. January 1st is the first day of filing, but many people wait until they first file their federal income taxes so the most updated information is reflected on the FAFSA application. The good thing about FAFSA is even if you don’t meet the specifications to receive federal aid, you might still be eligible for state aid; which also requires the FAFSA to be completed.
Once you’ve filed your FAFSA the first time, submitting annual applications to reapply for aid is easy, you log in with your PIN number and simply update your current information. If you qualify, federal grants are a terrific way to help you reduce the high costs of pursuing a college education. This money is a free award and does not need to be paid back.
Even if you don’t qualify for free money, the FAFSA is the first step necessary to apply for many low-interest student loans, so even if you don’t think you qualify for federal grants to help you pay for college, the time spent in filing anyway is well worth the effort.