Academic Student Aid Applications Now Being Received
Free Application For Student Aid or FAFSA.
Students planning to attend college this fall can submit their free application for student aid now if they plan to attend college anytime after July 1. The Free Application For Student Aid or FAFSA is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and is used to determine the dollar amount families or individuals are expected to pay towards college. Federal loans and grants such as Pell Grants are set by FAFSA and most colleges use it to determine school-awarded financial aid.
As the name clearly states, FAFSA is free. The sole website authorized by the federal government to process FAFSA is at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Use any other site and you may be charged for a service that is free.
In fiscal year 2009, the last year this information was available, approximately $113 billion of financial aid was awarded to nearly 13 million students. These students each completed a FAFSA and reaped the awards with many qualifying for federal Pell Grants. If you don’t apply, you can’t qualify — apply even if you think your family’s income is too high for you to qualify.
Before you begin to work on your FAFSA which can be completed online, you’ll need access to various documents first. These documents include current bank statements and investment records, your most recent federal income tax return, proof of untaxed income if applicable, your driver’s license, your Social Security Number and, if you are not a U.S. citizen, your alien registration or permanent resident card.
One Hour Timeframe
Expect to spend about one hour completing your FAFSA. Online instructions support each question, therefore you don’t have to pay someone to fill out this form. You can also chat online with a customer service representative in the event you need further guidance.
When applying for FAFSA, you’ll be given the opportunity to secure a personal identification number or PIN to electronically access your records and apply again in subsequent years. The Department of Education manages a PIN Web site for you to apply for a PIN.
If you prefer to send in a printed copy of your FAFSA, you have that option too. However, this option can slow down the application process by several weeks and you won’t have the benefit of any online error checker that can identify errors as you fill out your application. Without benefit of the error checker, your application can be further delayed.
Student Aid Report
When you complete your FAFSA online, you will receive a Student Aid Report, typically in as little as three to five days. That report summarizes your FAFSA information and usually includes your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. If an EFC is not included it typically is due to the Department of Education needing more information about you. A paper version of the SAR will be sent to your address too, usually arriving 7 to 10 days after you submit your SAR.
Applicants should inspect their SAR carefully to ensure that the information is correct. If you need to make a correction, follow the department’s instructions to resubmit.
Know the Deadlines
The federal deadline for SAR is June 30, but many states have deadlines that are much earlier than that. So, if you are looking for state aid on top of federal assistance, then apply early to ensure that you receive consideration for additional award monies.