Your access to numerous grants and scholarships, as well as federal student loans, depends on the FAFSA. With these guidelines at your side, complete it each year.
Get your Papers Together
You must submit documentation of your family’s financial position with your FAFSA application. Make sure you have all the documents you’ll need nearby to save time:
- Your parents’ and your own social security numbers
- an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification Number).
- a government-issued ID such as your driver’s license
- your most recent tax returns, and if you’re under 24, those of your parents.
- Statements of bank accounts and any other asset documents
- Documents pertaining to untaxed income, such as child support, disability payments, and health savings accounts
- The identifier for each institution you are considering
Fill out the Application in Full
You can now begin completing your FAFSA. The good news is that you only have to complete it once annually. The application can then be submitted to the schools of your choice using your school codes. Keep the following advice in mind while you develop your application:
Send your FAFSA to all of the colleges you are thinking about. The FAFSA website allows you to select up to 10 institutions. Your future eligibility for financial aid is based on this application, which is free. Even if a school hasn’t decided whether to accept your application, you can still send it there. They will simply ignore your application if you are rejected.
Even if you don’t think you’re eligible for financial aid, fill it out anyhow. Your eligibility is based on a number of factors, including your income as well as that of your parents, your savings, and the amount your family is expected to contribute to your education. You won’t be immediately barred from receiving aid even if your parents make six figures.
Don’t leave any blanks when filling it out. Processing delays may result from blank spaces. Once you’ve completed what you can, fill in the blanks with zeros or “not applicable” to leave any blank spaces.
Keep in Mind that you Have Nothing to Lose:
Each year, a large amount of grant money—free money—is left unused, some of which may be yours. Applying will not harm you in any way. Your school may utilize the information from your FAFSA to assist you in locating low-interest federal loans if you are not eligible for a grant or if one won’t fully cover your costs.
Adding to Your Eligibility:
Your eligibility for financial aid and the amount you will get are determined by a formula that is used by all universities that receive your FAFSA. The price of tuition, books, housing, and board is determined by each school. This is known as COA, or cost of attendance. The estimated family contribution (EFC), calculated by the school using information from your FAFSA, is the amount your family could give toward your COA. You are given grants or scholarships to help pay for college using a standard method to close the difference between your EFC and COA.
Try one or more of the following methods to ensure you’re receiving the most assistance possible:
Reduce the amount of money you have in savings. You started saving for college when you were in first grade? Nice! Then, request your parents’ assistance in moving that money from your savings account to their 529 plan. The FAFSA calculation presumes that a student should devote 20% of their assets to paying for school, whereas for parents, it’s just roughly 6%. Your college savings will be taxed at a lower rate if you place them in a parent-controlled 529 plan.
Employ the resources you currently have. If you have money saved up for college, you should prepare to spend it all on books and tuition during your first year. Spending down your funds early will increase your chances of receiving scholarships and grants after your freshman year, so it is a wise use of your college money.
Shift money. Did your parents just sell their home or receive a windfall from their investments? It may be preferable for your parents to invest those capital gains in a 401(k) or IRA since those won’t go against you on the FAFSA and won’t be considered as income.
Include extra levels. Is your financial condition more favorable on paper than it is in reality? Attach an additional letter to your application if you’ve just lost your employment, your parents have lost a significant asset, or your circumstances have changed. Colleges run the statistics, but many take more into account than just the straightforward application.
Appeal. You can bargain if you feel that the decision you were given wasn’t fair—for instance, if you weren’t given any or enough money. Request the procedures for an appeal from the financial assistance office at your institution. Be courteous, but make an effort to explain your financial situation so that you can negotiate for a better scholarship or additional awards.