The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (commonly known as the FAFSA) is a must-have form for everyone applying to college.
The FAFSA is completed annually by college applicants and students, and is the key tool used to determine a student's ability to qualify for student financial aid. This aid includes scholarships, subsidized student loans, work-study programs, and Pell Grants.
FAFSA provides access to federal and state student aid programs, as well as the great majority of the institutional aid which is avaialble in the U. S. For a concise summary about the online website and application, read our discussion of FAFSA.ed.gov.
Financial assistance via the FAFSA is widely accessible. See this page's section on Eligibility to determine yours. Additional good news is that, as recently as 2010, the government has made the FAFSA form much easier to fill out! It now requres closer to 20 minutes to complete rather than the previous two hours.
FAFSA's start being accepted on January first for the subsequent academic year. You should get the application in as early as possible in order to have the best chance to get all the aid you can qualify for. (Filing early can make a difference in how much your receive!
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You also need to remember that a new application must be filed each year to continue receiving assistance. And never assume your family has too much income for you to be eligible - just file!
You must update new information each year. The FAFSA includes numerous questions (well over 100) regarding each student's (and family's) financial status. The government uses that information to claculate the “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC). Many factors go into the determination of the EFC, such as number of people in the family, income, number of students from the household in college, and assets (excluding retirement and 401(k) funds). Determination of the EFC is required even if the student's family will not be assisting the student with his or her education expenses.
Parents rave about this newly revised and updated guide – including a step-by-step guide to filling out the FAFSA. Learn the tips and tricks to getting the most financial aid possible:
These are the basic criteria for eligibility:
- The student must be either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen;
- the student must have a legitimate Social Security number;
- the student must have a high school diploma or GED; adult students may pass an Ability-to-Benefit test;
- male candidates between 18 and 25 must be registered with the U.S. Selective Service;
- the student must promise to use any federal aid for education purposes;
- the student may not currently be obligated to pay any refunds on federal student grants;
- the student must not be in arrears on any student loans; and
- the student must never been convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs while receiving federal aid.
One more note: In addition to Federal Student Aid, don't forget about Scholarships! Check out our latest article on Scholarships for High School Seniors.