What is FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA, occasionally misspelled FASFA) is a US government form provided to students requesting financial aid.
You can find the form at the official government website: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa
I have doubts that I won’t qualify for aid. Why should I apply for it then?
No student may be certain of qualifying for it. However, you shouldn’t let that prevent from applying anyway. Firstly, because the aid isn’t just about money. With some grants, like the TEACH grant, you gain teaching experience that is infinitely more valuable!
Secondly, even if it is about the money, you won’t even have a chance of getting the award if you don’t apply. Thirdly, the FAFSA process doesn’t cost you anything but some of your time. How can you not give yourself that chance?
Finally, say you applied and you didn’t qualify. You can still look at other sources of aid, such as the unsubsidized and PLUS loans. Since they aren’t need-based, you can avail them at need.
Okay, so I applied. But what are the factors that will influence the state’s decision to give or deny me financial aid?
Since FAFSA is free, it is great that you applied. Remember that both the state and the school you have chosen will have a hand in determining whether you receive an award or not. They use certain variables to make that decision. The concerned parties will be looking at factors, such as family size, age of older parent, income, number of family members still in college, and asset information. You can also expect them to calculate the actual cost of sending you to college to decide if your financial needs are grave enough.
When should I file the FAFSA? And should I apply to it even if I think my family makes too much money for me to get approved?
We will never stop emphasizing the importance of FAFSA and the many opportunities that it opens to students. Therefore, no matter what you think, apply anyway. That’s rule number one.
The second rule is for you to remember that these applications don’t just determine how much federal student aid you may receive. Some colleges, universities, and state governments know the veracity of the information available via the FAFSA. At times, they will use it to determine which state and institutional aid you should qualify for.
For the first part of the question, it will work to your advantage if you apply soon. For one, each school is given a limited amount of money. This is a first come-based opportunity. So, no delays! Secondly, your state or school may have allotted a different deadline than the government. Thus, submit as soon as you manage to and keep track of all of the deadlines.
Finally, it is imperative that you not forget that the FAFSA is just the door to other opportunities. Even if you don’t qualify for state aid, your information will be in the system. That’s a prerequisite for students who want to apply for a federal student loan. You already know how hard the inflated interest rates make it to repay non-federal loans. Thus, by failing to fill in a 23-minute-long form, you also bar your way to a federal student loan.
Would applying for college’s financial aid program hurt my chances of being admitted into the same institution?
We’ll get to that answer in a bit. First, let us stress the importance of your applying to a college as early as you can. The size of a college’s funds available for student financial aid isn’t unlimited. Therefore, applying before they allocate all the money would be a good idea!
Now for the answer: that isn’t the case most of the time. Since colleges will use the option of aid to achieve a more diverse student body, you shouldn’t worry about it hurting your chances. It is more likely that the admission committee will look at your academic performance and other prized qualities.
Will I have to apply for financial aid again at the beginning of each year?
That would be a yes and here’s why the government has designed the system to be this way. Since people may experience a change in their financial situation in the coming years, they will need less of the grant money. Thus, giving them the amount allotted to them previously wouldn’t make sense. Moreover, the government can redirect that money to a student who needs it more. Therefore, most financial aid offices require that students apply for financial aid every year.
However, unlike the first time, you won’t have to re-enter all your information into the FAFSA. You will get a “Renewal Application” with that data already preprinted on it.
Finally, whether you qualify for financial aid and how much you get will depend on various factors. If some of your family members who had been in college during the previous year pass out, the award amount may change. Similarly, renewing your financial aid package will also be dependent on your academic progress, including the earning of a minimum number of credits or GPA. The rules may also vary from school to school, so be sure of the requirements.
Which mistakes should my family and I look out for while filling the FAFSA?
An incomplete form is bad, but what is even worse is no form at all! Don’t make the mistake of not even trying for the FAFSA. Sure, you cannot afford college education yourself. But does that mean you can’t attend college even with some financial aid? It doesn’t!
Don’t delay filing the FAFSA just because you haven’t decided which school to attend. You don’t need that information for the form! Moreover, you won’t be requiring your tax information from the previous year for this purpose either. Because the FAFSA will ask for information about your taxes from two years before.
Additionally, you won’t even have to physically leave your home to apply. You can do that online – it hardly takes 20-25 minutes. There is also an option on the website that allows you to retrieve your IRS data. Accessing it will result in the automatic population of the FAFSA. Thus, there is a minimal chance of error, and the application process becomes much simpler for you.
Finally, it is crucial that you keep an eye out for all relevant deadlines, including those for the federal, institutional, and state cut-off times. Just take your time, so you will make no mistakes and don’t leave too much of the form unfilled. Confirm that personal details, such as your name, match those found on your official documents. It is best to keep them nearby when filling the FAFSA.
For other advantages of applying to the FAFSA, scroll up to find the answers to preceding questions.
Do I have a chance of qualifying even if I don’t score straight A’s?
This is where the government-based aid really shines. Many scholarships that originate in the private sectors will reward high performing students out of high school. Thus, their criterion is academic, unlike the government’s, which is need-based. However, once you get the grant money, you will have to satisfy the conditions to renew your scholarship. Those often include a GPA to maintain or grades to earn.
What is the procedure I can follow for applying for Pell Grant and other federal aid programs?
The first step for you to all those programs is submitting an FAFSA. While doing so, you can signify your interest in the program by checking the appropriate boxes. Of course, there isn’t a guarantee that you will be approved for them just because you showed interest. Neither does it make it mandatory for you to accept a package if you do get approved later. Moreover, by checking those boxes, you won’t be taking yourself out of the running for other programs. You are just stating your preference.
Will I need to submit an application for a Parent or Graduate PLUS Loan separately?
Even when you apply for the PLUS loans, you will need to begin with the submission of the FAFSA form. Only then you will become eligible for the Federal Direct Loan.
Will I need to submit an application for a Federal Direct Loan separately?
Even when you apply for the Direct loans, you will need to begin with the submission of the FAFSA form. Only then you will become eligible for the Federal Direct Loan.
Will withdrawing from the school before the term is over make a difference to my grant money?
Under normal circumstances, you won’t be liable for paying back the grant money you receive. However, that will change if you withdraw from school. Then, you will have to repay a portion of your financial aid. Any money from the grant that you paid tuition and fees with must be returned to the appropriate financial aid sources in that case. Additional procedures that you may have to go through include exit counseling and proof of participation.
Will failing a class or dropping one make a difference to my grant prospects?
After becoming a recipient of financial aid, you must adhere to the rules that it stipulates. Many of them include satisfactory academic progress among the conditions you must meet. Therefore, failing a class or not participating in a course can affect your financial aid eligibility status. Any change in your enrollment extent before the census date arrives will mean a revision of the amount you receive as financial aid.
What is the Work-Study Program, and am I eligible for it?
Also need-based and offered by the federal government, this program lets students earn money by working part-time jobs. Since your wages will come from the program itself, you will find many employers interested in hiring you. Moreover, what you earn will not be held against you if you apply for a renewal of your FAFSA-based aid programs. Additionally, you can go on earning even as you continue college. This keeps you from borrowing more money to pay for your studies!
Students who can prove financial need and have submitted completed FAFSA form on time are eligible for this program.
Are there any other sources of college financial aid besides federal grants and loans?
You can also apply for financial aid from agencies besides the federal government. For that, you can look to your school’s financial aid office, state agencies, and even many community organizations like churches, as well as, private organizations. Even for those sources, the FAFSA is usually the only form you’d need. However, we’d caution against confirming it with the relevant agency.
Schools that run their own financial aid programs will also lift your data from the FAFSA website. Therefore, you may want to get that over with even if you intend to apply elsewhere for financial aid.
Finally, we’d like to mention that you shouldn’t have to pay any agency to help you arrive at a source for financial aid. If someone asks you to do so, don’t trust them! For any questions about your school’s aid program, ask the concerned department. For others, contact us.
Will the responsibility of paying off my educational loans be on my parents?
Not unless they took out a Federal PLUS loan to pay for your college education. Sure, they will be partially responsible for the repayment if they co-sign your loan. However, students under 18 don’t need their parents to co-sign. Some lenders do need a parent as a cosigner for private student loans if the borrower is underage. But in the same way, you cannot use the defense of infancy, i.e., you are not legally an adult, so you can’t be held liable, to get out of paying off any federal student loans.
In most conditions, however, the onus of repayment falls on your shoulders.
Do you have any other questions regarding financial aid? Bring them to us, and we will help answer them! Remember that you may be running out of time due to a deadline that is drawing closer. It is better to take action right away!