FAFSA and College Aid Assistance

FAFSA and College Aid Assistance

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    If you are in college or planning to attend college, the acronym FAFSA should be familiar to you. FAFSA stands for Free Application For Student Aid, a form used by the US Department of Education to determine financial need, particularly your "expected family contribution" or EFC.

    FAFSA conducts a "need analysis" based on your income, assets and other household information.


Nearly every college and university in the United States uses FAFSA to calculate state, federal and college-backed financial aid such as grants, educational loans and work-study programs. Here is what you need to know about FAFSA:

Apply Beginning Jan. 1

A new calendar year means readying your FAFSA for the following academic year. You may not have all your tax information completed until later, but you should begin working on your FAFSA in early Jan.

To delay your application may mean missing your state, federal or college deadline. Miss out and it can cost you dearly, even delaying the start of your higher education. Check out the FAFSA deadline that pertains to you.

First Come, First Served

Filing your FAFSA sooner rather than later is extremely important as there is a limit to the amount of student aid that can be dispensed. And that aid is typically distributed on a first come, first served basis. When funding is depleted you may find that you missed certain grants.

Yes, you can apply before Jan. 1 although your application will not be processed until the new year. Still, with your FAFSA already in the queue, you stand to beat out most applicants, an important consideration when assistance is needed.

Paper or Online

You can file by paper and mail in your application or file online and save time. If you file by paper, allow two to three weeks for processing.

When applying online, it won’t be instant as you will still need to be issued a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number to sign your application electronically. Online is much faster than paper and you may avert missing the deadline if you forget to file earlier.

Annual FAFSA Filing

You should know that filing a FAFSA is not a one-time occurrence. Each year that you are in school, your family will have to renew the application.

And the annual filing may change from year to year too as income and need change with it. Moreover, if a sibling attends college too, then that can have an impact on student aid as well. And one more point: if you file the FAFSA and not all the tax information is received at time of filing, the application can be amended later on — typically by the end of Jan. when W2s and other tax data is due.

Financial Considerations

Even if you do not think that your family would qualify for aid it doesn’t hurt to submit a FAFSA as even high net worth individuals sometimes find relief when applying. You should also know that college scholarships can be sought separately, providing yet another way to ease your higher education financial burden with funds that are not paid back.


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Categories: FAFSA Form Tips