College is a huge expense, that much we know. And while some are lucky enough to have college savings that will cover the cost of higher education, the reality is that many students will need to apply for financial aid. Enter the FAFSA. If you're a student or the parent of a student who will be filling out the FAFSA form sometime soon, you may be feeling a bit intimidated by the process. But we assure you, it's not as scary as it sounds. Here we've compiled everything you need to know about the FAFSA form and how to prepare for it, including some tips on how to make the process as easy as possible. So, whether you're just starting to think about college or you're almost done with your applications, read on for advice from the experts!
What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and it's a form that you fill out in order to receive financial aid for college. The FAFSA form is available online at fafsa.gov, and it's free to submit, however, you will need some important information to fill it out, including your Social Security number, your parents' tax information, and your own financial information.
Here are some things you should to know about the FAFSA:
- The FAFSA form is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid, which can include grants, loans, and work-study programs.
- There are two types of FAFSA: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the Renewal FAFSA, which you need to submit each school year that you wish to receive financial aid.
- FAFSA deadlines vary by state, but are typically in the spring. Be sure you keep track of dates, so as not to miss out.
- You can receive aid from the federal government, your state, or your college.
- Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid, while loans do.
- You can use the FAFSA form to apply for both need-based and merit-based aid.
Now that you know the basics, here are some tips to make filling out the FAFSA form as simple and straightforward as possible:
- Start early and give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. As a best practice, you should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible after it becomes available (January of each year). The sooner you submit your FAFSA form, the better chance you have of receiving financial aid. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's important to submit your form early!
- Make sure you have all the required documents and information before you start to streamline the process.
- Read the instructions carefully and answer all questions truthfully. Answering incorrectly or providing inaccurate information could result in delays.
- Make sure to complete your CSS (College Scholarship Service) profile as well, if required by your school. And pay close attention to the deadline! The CSS is submitted earlier than FAFSA.
- When in doubt, ask for help! If you're not sure how to fill out the FAFSA form, there are plenty of resources available to help you. You can find instructions on the fafsa.gov website and your school's financial aid office will be able to help you with any questions you have as well.
As mentioned, the process of completing the FAFSA form can be intimidating for first-time college students and their parents. There are a lot of questions about income and expenses, and it can be difficult to know where to start. But by taking the time to understand the FAFSA form, students and their parents can set themselves up to make the best possible choices for their future. If you have any questions, reach out to our team today.