5 Helpful FAFSA Tips

Every student should complete a FAFSA when applying to college. Follow these tips to start your quest for financial aid.

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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is required in order to be eligible for federal aid. Because federal aid is likely to be a large part of the college money you’re offered toward your college degree, it’s important that you understand how this form works and how it can help you.

If you’re unsure whether you’ll qualify for financial aid and are wondering whether you should fill out the FAFSA form, the answer is: yes. You have nothing to lose, and college money for your education to gain, by taking the time to fill out the FAFSA paperwork.

Although federal aid is the largest provider of financial aid, it’s not the only source of money for college out there. Search scholarships!

Here are five quick tips to help you with your FAFSA:

  1. Fill out an online FAFSA form, known as FAFSA on the Web, rather than getting the paper form. This will allow you to receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) faster. Your SAR will tell you the type of aid you’ll eligible to get, and will let you know if there are any outstanding questions about your application for college aid. In addition to moving the financial aid process along more quickly, it’s easier to make changes to the online form than the paper form.
  2. Filling out the FAFSA form can be a time-consuming process. Get started as early as possible to give yourself time to gather all the necessary information. Use the FAFSA4caster to see what information you’re expected to provide and to get an early estimate on how much federal aid you can expect to receive. You’ll be able to transfer all of your data over to the FAFSA on the Web form when you’re ready to apply.
  3. You’re allowed to submit your FAFSA form at any time between January 1 and June 30, but because some college aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, you’ll want to submit your form as early as possible, to be able to take advantage of the most amounts of federal grants, college loans and other types of aid offered to you. The schools you’re applying to may also have their own deadlines; contact their financial aid offices to find out.
  4. The FAFSA form doubles as your application for a number of federal grants, including the Federal Pell Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant and National SMART Grant. Be sure to read the Campus Explorer articles on these student grants for more information about how to be eligible for these grants. For example, for the SMART grant, you need to select one of the SMART-approved college majors on your FAFSA in order to be eligible.
  5. Beware of any website or organization that requires payment for helping you fill out the FAFSA form. As the name Free Application for Federal Student Aid attests, this is a free form designed to give you money for college, and you should not have to pay for assistance. Once you determine the types of loans you will need, it is necessary to compare student loans to ensure you get the best possible financial aid package. If you have additional questions about the form or about the student grants, college loans, work-study programs and other types of aid you may be offered, read the Campus Explorer articles for those subjects, and ask your guidance counselor, the admissions office and financial aid office for the colleges and universities you’re applying to, and your parents for additional help.

Quick Tips

  • Although federal aid is the largest provider of aid in this country, it’s certainly not the only source of money for college out there. There are a number of organizations that offer scholarships for students, based on academic excellence, the type of college program the student is studying (such as nursing scholarships) or personal talents or traits. Search online to find scholarships for women or various ethnic groups, as well as scholarships for athletes and gifted musicians.
  • Many schools require that students fill out the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form in addition to, or instead of, the FAFSA form. Unlike the FAFSA form, which is evaluated by the federal government, the PROFILE form is evaluated by financial aid administrators at colleges and universities and takes into account personal assets the FAFSA does not. You’ll probably qualify for less aid with the PROFILE form; however, you will have opportunities to appeal the amount given and explain why you think you qualify for more aid.
  • If your financial situation changes after you submit your FAFSA and you require more money for college, you may be able to appeal the amount you’re given. In most cases, the school will require that you submit, in writing, evidence of these additional circumstances that impact your college aid, such as loss of employment or a death in the family.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Complete Your FAFSA
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Changes to the FAFSA Form Make It Easier to Complete
Understanding Student Aid: Federal, State and College Aid
Are You Eligible for Federal Financial Aid?
What to Do When You Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

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