The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is probably one of the most important steps for anyone that is looking to attend college. The FAFSA as it is normally referred, is generally one of the first steps that a college will require you to take, regardless of whether or not you need student aid. This application is run by the United States Department of Education and allows you to find out what you qualify for in terms of grants and loans. By filling out this application, more students are afforded the ability to go to college at a much lower out of pocket expense to them. For many students, especially those that are filing alone, they will find that they are eligible for a great deal of federal money as well as federally backed loans.
FILLING OUT THE FAFSA
In order to fill out the FAFSA is relatively easy. In fact, you can even fill out the FAFSA online at FAFSA,edu. By filling it out online, you will get a substantially faster turn around on your paperwork, generally within a week or two. When I filled out the FAFSA for this current school year, it took about 3 days before I heard back about the results. This of course is great news if you don’t have a whole lot of time to fill out the FAFSA and get the funding before classes start. Generally, the FAFSA is filled out in January and by filling it out early, you will ensure that you are eligible for the most money possible. Keep in mind that the FAFSA funding runs from school years, not the calendar year, so when you fill out the forms in January 2008 for example, you are actually filling them out for the 2008-2009 school year, which starts in the summer term.
The FAFSA paperwork is incredibly easy to fill out. The main thing that you are going to need is if you are filling out the paperwork alone and applying without your parents, you’ll want to know your current and last years tax information. With this on hand, it is incredibly easy to fill out the FAFSA as it is very straight forward. At the very end of filling out the paperwork, you will be told to sign the forms electronically and submit it. After that, you have about a week before you’ll hear back with the results.
If you are filing the paperwork with your parents information, which is need for parent loans, then you are going to need their tax information for the last year and current year, as well as your own. Keep in mind that if you are the one that is going to be paying back these loans, using your parents might get you a lower interest rate, but it will also mean that you are missing out on free grant money, because their added income can affect the amount of free federal dollars you are eligible for. Besides, even with bad credit, you can still obtain great rates, since the federal government backs student loans. So I would suggest that you consider this before proceeding with your parents. But if you know they are paying for college, then apply for the parent loans. After you are done submitting all of your information and your parent’s information, you will then submit the application and wait 1-2 weeks before you hear back about your results. You will receive this via email.
Also, keep in mind that you are going to need to remember the pin number that you create. You will need this for applying in the future for the FAFSA, as well as for signing for your student loans from the lending institution. This is how they verify your eligibility status.
WHAT YOU CAN GET
After the results come back, you are going to find out how much federal money you are eligible for and how much you are eligible for in student or parent loans. While this is just a minimum that you are guaranteed to be qualified for that the government will back, it generally will cover the majority of your expenses, include your housing, books, and insurance.
You should first notice that you are eligible for several different grants. I for example, because I’m a single parent, get quite a bit of grant money. It also helps that I’m in the military I would imagine as well. So I get around $2,500 per semester in grants from the federal government. That is a lot of free money each year that I never have to pay back.
Next, you are going to notice how much you are guaranteed in Parent loans or if you filed by yourself, you’ll see the amount that you are qualified for in Perkins loans and Stafford loans. They are slightly different in several ways, but the main thing to remember is that they are going to be low interest rate loans that aren’t payable until you graduate. However, one of them, can’t remember which one, requires that you pay interest while you are in school, so make sure you pay attention to ensure that you aren’t missing insurance payments that are due while you are still in school. These payments are generally quite small, and more than affordable, so don’t worry about these payments being a huge burden.
Now that you have your loans approved, you are going to want to talk to your college finance office and they will help you to finalize and sign for your loans with an approved lender. Once you have done all of this, you are ready to go to school and at a cost that is substantially cheaper now that you have received some federal money to go on.
The main thing that you need to remember, is that the FAFSA while it may take a bit of time and effort to fill out truly is worth it. Think about the thousands of dollars that you’ll save by using the grant money provided to you by the federal government. This can make a huge different on what you are required to pay back once you graduate. Keep in mind, this cost can be incredible, so anything that will help to reduce the amount that you owe, is completely worth it. It will also help to supplement some of the expenses that you are going to have while attending school. So, regardless of your financial situation, make sure you take the time to do the FAFSA, as it is completely worth the effort.