The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most important documents you will fill out before going to college. It is almost as important as the application to get into the college. FAFSA student loans are the safest loans to get, and the government does provide some generous grants. While there are many myths about FAFSA, everyone really should complete the application because there may be finical resources that you may utilize. In fact, if you are uncertain whether or not to file, some experts say you should file anyway.
The key to getting the most money from FAFSA requires timeliness and correctness. It is important to file early and expeditiously which usually means completing an online application. It is possible to do a paper application through your local financial aid office, but you can complete the application online which means quicker completion and easy access to the status of your application.
Start at the FFSA Homepage
Navigating the homepage is user friendly and guides you through the process with prompts and buttons. To being the process, click the "Start Here" button on the FAFSA homepage. The first step in the process will be to obtain a FAFSA ID. You will need this unique identifier to create an account and for various reasons throughout the process so be sure to keep it available.
Complete the Student Information
You will create an account first. Fill out the student information completely. Be sure all of your information is correct. One of the main reasons applications get slowed down is due to incorrect information. You will need your social security number, FAFSA ID and birth date. Use your proper name (no nicknames), and the name must match the name on your Social Security card.
Select Schools and Time Frame
You will need to select the schools for which you would want the FAFSA benefits to apply. Additionally, you will need to choose the years for which you want to apply for student financial aid. Basically, you will identify the number of years you anticipate being enrolled at the the school you have listed.
You will be notified periodically about the status of your application, however, you may also go back into the system to check your status. Prior to, and during the process, there are ways to ensure you get the most money for your application. First, experts suggest you save all money under the parents' names, not under the student's. Any money saved under the student's name should be transferred to the parents because large balances of saved money in a student's name will reduce their identified financial need, therefore reducing or possibly eliminating FAFSA eligibility.
Additionally, don't withdraw money from a retirement fund to pay for schooling as, again, this money will count against your student loan and grant eligibility if it is withdrawn. If possible, list yourself as an independent student. This will help you get even more FAFSA student financial aid. Consult resources below to find out if you qualify.
Another thing to consider are your current assets. If you need a new car or computer (or any other school necessities) get those before you file for FAFSA student loans and grants. Family members can be assets, too. Encourage your parents to attend college at the same time if they have been thinking of furthering their education. Or, if you have a brother/sister a year younger than you, wait that extra year to attend. The more people a family has in college, the more FAFSA student financial aid you will be eligible to receive.
Lastly, an option for maximizing your eligibility, consider getting a 529 college savings plan prior to filing. A 529 plan offers individuals a way to invest with limited tax liability with hte funds used to support K-12 and college tuition or expenses. A 529 saving plan owned by parents has little impact on financial aid, but one owned by grandparents has no impact.
Be sure to get information from your school. The financial aid office has additional resources for you to consider. Talk with the financial aid office of your school if you think you need more information or have questions. Many will be willing to work in a little extra money if possible. Be polite and kind, but firm in the fact that you need more money. Don't be greedy though, or they may refuse you all together.
Subsidized loans will not accumulate interest while you are in college and do not need to be paid back until six months after graduation. Unsubsidized loans will accumulate interest while in college, but does not need to be paid until six months after graduation. Loans taken from a bank, unless specified by the bank as not needing repayment until after graduation, will need to begin pay back immediately. Really think HARD about whether you need this. Some schools give financial discounts if you are capable of paying your tuition in full at the beginning of the year.