Completing and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the single most important action you can take to get money for college.
The FAFSA is used by schools to put together your financial aid package, including grants, work-study, federal student loans, and even state and school financial aid.
Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 every year that you’re in college.*
- College and state financial aid deadlines vary by state, and can be as early as February or March of your senior year of high school.
- Aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so know your deadlines and apply as early as you can to maximize your financial aid.
A Beginner’s Guide to FAFSA
Filling out the FAFSA can feel overwhelming. See how a little up-front planning and a few simple tips can make the process easier.
How to complete the FAFSA
These three simple steps can make the process faster and easier.
Step 1: Gather all the information you’ll need, including:
- Your drivers’ license and Social Security number
- Your parents’ Social Security numbers and birthdates
- Your family’s latest federal income tax returns
- W-2 forms
- Bank statements
- Information on your family’s investments
Step 2: Bookmark FAFSA.gov
Don’t fall for scams. The only site you should use to fill out and submit your application is FAFSA.gov.
- There’s no charge for submitting the FAFSA.
- This is where you get your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID; the user name and password give you access to the site.
- The site also has the most up-to-date information on upcoming changes.
Step 3: Submit your FAFSA
- The easiest and fastest way is to file online with your FSA ID. Your application will be processed within 3-5 days.
- You can mail in a paper application, but the processing time will take about 2-4 weeks.
* NOTE: Changes are coming
For the 2017-2018 academic year, you'll be able to submit your FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016 and use your 2015 tax return.
For the most current information on this and other changes, be sure to visit FAFSA.gov.
Financial Aid Myths Busted
Think you won’t qualify for federal financial aid? Think again. It’s available to students and families across all income levels.
Myth: My family’s income is too high to qualify for financial aid.
Student and family income isn’t the only factor that the government uses to decide if a student qualifies for a federal student loan. The only way to know for sure is to fill out the FAFSA.
Myth: My family has money saved for college so we won't get any aid.
Student and family savings may not be a major factor when a school decides if a student qualifies for Unsubsidized federal student loans. There are allowances for savings and assets. Your family isn’t expected to sacrifice home equity or retirement savings to pay for a student’s education.
Myth: My sister/brother wasn't eligible for much financial aid last year, so I won’t be eligible when I enter college.
On the contrary, the number of family members in college may have a favorable impact on your financial aid eligibility.
Myth: I’m only attending college part-time, so I won't be eligible for financial aid.
Financial aid is available for part-time students. Talk to the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re interested in attending about aid for part-time students.
Now that you know what the FAFSA is, and how vital it is to getting financial aid, you need to be aware of application deadlines and how to apply for it.
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