Want Financial Aid? 5 Things You Need to Know About the FAFSA

There’s nothing more daunting or confusing in the college application process than figuring out how you’re going pay for it all. Plus, the whole financial aid thingy isn’t just a pile of cash you find under your bed to help you pay for college–even though that’d be pretty awesome.

Getting financial aid involves an entire process. But even though it can be tedious and sometimes it’s more fun to complain about things like this than actually doing them, it’s not the worse thing in the world. In fact, spending a few hours doing annoying work, in this case, is worth it in the end.

So what’s at the core of this laborious process? The FAFSA! If you’re a high school senior and you haven’t heard of the FAFSA, get acquainted quickly because you’re going to need it in order to apply for almost any financial aid. Now remember, you probably don’t need the FAFSA to apply for private scholarships, like the ones you’ll find on Cappex, but you will need it for a mountain of other types of aid.

So here are 5 things you need to know about the FAFSA:

1. You probably most definitely will want to fill out the FAFSA.
You might not realize it at the moment, but so many places including schools and states depend on the FAFSA in order to grant you need-based aid. Some scholarship providers might even ask for it.

2. If you haven’t completed the FAFSA yet, DO IT NOW!
If you’re a senior applying to colleges…get your FAFSA completed! You can do it online here. It became available January 1, and some schools and states have deadlines as early as February 15. So get yours completed!

3. You’ll probably most definitely need help completing it.
Much of the FAFSA is about understanding your income and assets, and your parents’ income and assets to determine your Expected Family Contribution—the annual amount that the government expects you and your parents to be able to pay toward your college education. If your college costs (Cost of Attendance, or COA) exceed your calculated EFC, you’ll be eligible for need-based loans and/or grants to help pay your college bills. It’s really just a simple math problem, but getting all the details involving income, taxes, and assets can be confusing. So take time to go over everything with the people (usually your parents) who can help you.

4. Not sure you’d qualify for need-base aid? Fill it out anyways!
You should file the FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based aid. If you want to take out a federal loan of any type—including the unsubsidized Stafford Loan, which isn’t based on financial need—then you’ll need to file the FAFSA. Some scholarship providers even like to see the FAFSA.

5. Be organized.
You’ll need to reference a heap of documents including your social security number, tax forms or your parents’ tax forms, bank statements, and information on any businesses you or your family own, mortgage information, blah blah blah blah blah….you get the picture. Locate all important documents before you start completing the FAFSA.

Want more help? Here’s our worksheet FAFSA: Why You Need It, How to Start to help you get the money you need to pay for college.

Original Post Date: January 9th, 2012

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