What is FAFSA?
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a form that you can submit each year to assess your eligibility for financial aid. When you fill out a FAFSA, you are basically submitting yourself for consideration to receive Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, or a Federal Work-Study Program.
FAFSA evaluates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) using a series of about 130 questions. The questions pertain to your dependency status, your and your parents’ income, and your assets. Your EFC measures your ability to pay for your education. The lower your EFC, the greater your chances might be for receiving financial aid. EFC scores range from 0 to 99,999; as of July 1, 2012 you automatically receive an EFC of 0 if your family’s income is no higher than $23,000 per year.
What do I need to fill out a FAFSA?
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license or state ID
- W-2 Forms (If you don’t have these forms yet, estimate with your pay stubs and file a correction later.)
- Previous year’s Federal Income Tax Return
- Your parent’s previous year’s Federal Income Tax Return (If you are a dependent.)
- Your untaxed income records
- Current bank statements
- Alien registration or permanent residence card (If you are not a U.S. citizen.)
- FAFSA PIN (This PIN , or personal identification number, will serve as your electronic signature on your FAFSA. It will let you log in to apply for financial aid and access your past aid records. If you are filing as a dependent, your parents will need their own PIN. Visit the Federal Student Aid PIN site to set up PINs.)
All of the financial information you put into your FAFSA needs to be from the previous year. For example, if you are applying for the 2013 academic school year, you need to supply all of your financial information from 2012 on your FAFSA.
FAFSA does not ask about your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or any disabilities. All you need is financial info and records.
Keep in mind that federal aid via the FAFSA is awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Applications are accepted beginning on January 1st for the upcoming school year. So, if you know you will need to fill out a FAFSA for the 2013 school year, get in gear now! Ask your parents now for their financial information so they have time to gather their paperwork and create a PIN.
Who can submit a FAFSA?
Prospective and current college or graduate students. As of July 1, 2012 you must have a high school diploma or an approved substitute like a GED or home-school education to complete a FAFSA.
How can I submit a FAFSA?
- Online via the U.S. Department of Education website. This is the recommended route because you can easily update information and submit renewals.
- Printing a PDF of the FAFSA and mailing it in.
Financial aid and the FAFSA can be confusing when there are terms flying right and left. Take your time and make sure you fill out your FAFSA correctly. If you start now and take a look at the form, you’ll be ready to apply come January 1st. But don’t wait too long! Be proactive and you’ll thank yourself later.
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