Completing The FAFSA Is An Important Step On The College Path
By Courtney White, Stride Success Coach
It’s October, and for many families this means it’s time to apply for FAFSA… the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is used to apply for federal student aid such as grants, work-study, and loans. For some colleges and universities, it is required to be completed before you can receive certain scholarships and/or determine whether you qualify for their aid. If the mere idea of completing the FAFSA stresses you out, don’t panic. Read on to learn everything you need to know about completing your FAFSA.
You must meet the basic eligibility requirements for FAFSA.
The basic eligibility requirements are that you must be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen, have a valid social security number, and be enrolled or be accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program. So, high school seniors headed for college, this means you should complete the FAFSA in your senior year, to receive any eligible aid your freshman year. To remain eligible, you must maintain satisfactory academic progress while in college.
You need to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.
This is not a drill. The FAFSA opens October 1st every year, and you want to complete it on, or as close to, that date as possible. So, if you have not been accepted, or even applied to the school of your choice, you should still complete the FAFSA on or near October 1st. That’s right, you do not have to wait until you are accepted to apply!
Many schools only receive a finite amount of funding from federal and state governments for certain grant and institutional aid offerings. To ensure you do not miss any eligible funding, complete your FAFSA as soon as possible! While the FAFSA remains open for you to complete up until June of the following year, you don’t want to be a straggler. Completing it early takes the stress of the application off your plate, will allow you ample time to gather any needed documents should your application be requested for verification, and enable you to receive funding that is distributed on a first come, first served basis. Side note, the FAFSA must be completed every year that you intend to receive aid.
You’ll need tax and/or income information for the FAFSA.
Since the eligibility of most federal aid is determined by financial need, parents and students who file taxes must submit this information. Luckily, there is a very simple process to submit tax information via the IRS data retrieval tool. Once inside the application, you will have the option to use this tool, which will directly import your tax data into the FAFSA. The process takes minutes and will ensure there are no errors in submitting your tax information.
Please note, not everyone will be eligible to use the IRS data retrieval tool. If your family is not eligible, no worries. You can still input your tax data manually. Other important required information for completing the FAFSA includes your driver’s license number, if you have one, your social security number, records of any un-taxed income and assets, and a list of the schools you’re interested in attending.
You should probably complete the FAFSA, even if you don’t believe you’ll qualify.
Contrary to widespread belief, there is no income cut-off for FAFSA. Remember, FAFSA not only includes eligibility for need-based grants and aid, but it could be required to receive scholarships offered at your college. If loans are an option for you, it’s important to note that federal student loans offer some of the lowest interest rates, and most flexible repayment plans available. Also, other variables such as your family size and year in school are important factors in determining your eligibility, aside from income. Plus, you’re not obligated to accept any aid offerings such as loans, if you aren’t interested.
Help is available for the FAFSA.
You don’t have to go it alone. You can get assistance directly from the federal student aid information center by calling, emailing, or chatting with agents online. Representatives are available 7 days a week, to help you complete your form and learn general information about federal student aid. Another great resource is your college’s financial aid office. Financial aid counselors are a vital source of information and assistance with completing your FAFSA.
Don’t sweat it, the FAFSA is not as hard as you think.
Relax, you’ve got this. While it may seem complicated, the FAFSA is actually a simple form, requiring only information relevant to you. You’ll be seamlessly guided through the application, in the form of easy questions. And, you can choose to stop, save your progress on the form, and get additional help at any time. The best news is, after completing it once, you’re sure to be a FAFSA pro!
Learn fast facts about college tuition, by clicking the link to our in-depth coach blog, here!
Interested in learning more before choosing a college? Be sure to check out the podcast, “A College Recruiter Discusses How To Help Teens Take A Step Forward On The Path to Their College And Career Dreams!”
Feel like you need some more guidance in getting started on your college planning and/or career prep? Make sure you read How To Find A High School Career Coach, as well!
Ready to get an active jump-start on your career plans and college admissions? Make sure you check out Stride Success Coaching: https://www.stridelearning.com/career-prep/career-exploration/student-success-coaching.html
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