How to Apply for Federal Aid
Every year, millions of students apply and receive federal financial aid. To get your piece of the pie, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal aid programs, like Pell Grants and student loans. Universities and some scholarship programs also use the FAFSA to determine need-based financial assistance. Don't worry! There isn't any mystery to the FAFSA. Read below to learn how to apply for federal aid today.
1. Obtain the FAFSA form.
You have three filing options: Login Online, Complete a PDF FAFSA, or Request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
2. Gather information.
You will be required to report your parent's financial information. All income and expense data should be from the prior year ( i.e. 2010 for the 2011-2012 award year). Taxable income, including wages, pensions, interest, dividends, unemployment compensation, for both your parents and you will be requested. Expenses, such as income taxes and child support paid, may be included in your application. The form also will ask you to report assets, like the value of savings and checking accounts.
To get an idea of what the process involves, plus an estimated aid package, use the FAFSA4caster.
3. Fill in the accurate data.
Be as accurate as possible when filling out the FAFSA. Errors will have to be corrected and may cause your application to be delayed for processing. The online FAFSA helps prevent errors and reduces rejections.
Answer each question, unless the form specifically tells you to skip a step. If a question is confusing to you, contact the federal student aid hot line at 1-800-4-FED-AID.
4. Wait for the Student Aid Report (SAR).
In three to four weeks, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR lists all the information included in your application and reports how much money your family is expected to contribute to your college costs, known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Carefully review your SAR. If there are any errors, send the corrections back immediately. Once your college financial aid officer receives your SAR, s/he will develop your financial aid package.
At first, the FAFSA may seem overwhelming. However, once you gather all the necessary information, it's smooth sailing thereafter. Fill out your FAFSA today! Then, tell us about your experience. Leave us a comment below.