If you are looking to save thousands of dollars on college expenses each year, the first place to start is with your Free Application For Student Aid or FAFSA. By filling out a FAFSA in January, you can get your application in early and you may qualify for financial assistance from the US Department of Education.
Notably, most schools provide assistance on a first come, first served basis. Therefore, it is important that you complete your FAFSA early in the new year.
Complete Your FAFSA
Completing a FAFSA makes it possible for students to receive grants and other types of assistance from the federal government. Tens of billions of dollars is distributed annually, enabling many students to greatly reduce their college expenses.
Beyond the federal assistance, a number of colleges and universities determine the amount of aid they will provide you based on your FAFSA. On the state level you may also qualify for aid, but only if you complete a FAFSA.
You should know that the FAFSA is a multi-page form that can take days to complete. You and your parents will need to share personal information including wage information, taxes, bank accountant balances and investments. That means assembling a lot of data and carefully including it on the FAFSA.
Fixing FAFSA Mistakes
Make a mistake and you can slow down the approval process. Once you are done a Student Aid Report or SAR is issued, what includes your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. The EFC is your college cost, what comes in lower than the college’s sticker price.
Applicants should know that if there are mistakes on the FAFSA, the SAR will not show the EFC. Instead, you will receive notice on what you must do to complete your FAFSA. It is critically important that you supply this information at once, otherwise there may not be enough funds to go around to help you.
Student Aid Report
When you receive your SAR, review it carefully. It should be complete and accurate. The school or schools listed on your FAFSA will then use your information to determine eligibility for federal assistance. It can also impact whatever other financial assistance you may receive.
If there is a mistake on your SAR, you will have to update or correct your FAFSA. You’ll then receive a new SAR reflecting your current information.
Financial Aid Offered
Students should know that award letters will state what types of financial aid is being provided. If you are awarded scholarships and grants, this represents free money that isn’t paid back. You might also be provided with a work-study option. Here, you don’t pay the money back, but you do have to earn your way through college.
The third award category should be examined very carefully as it involves loans that must be paid back. Borrowed money can come in the form of federal student loans, loans from your college or state government, as well as private loans. Carefully consider the cost of this option as you may leave college with more debt than you can handle.
There is nothing wrong with accepting a loan, but it must be paid back. Review the loan terms to find the ones with the most favorable conditions. There is a difference between government and private loans, so learn what these are and make your decision accordingly.
Complete Your FAFSA
Completing your FAFSA is hard work, but the benefits are obvious: there is a good chance you will pay less for your education than the student who does not complete the FAFSA. Be mindful of the school’s deadline and complete your FAFSA early in the new year, if possible.
See Also — Start Your FAFSA Engine Now!