Five Letters = Money for College
College students, college graduates, and their parents all know what FAFSA is. If you or your child will need financial aid to attend college, then you should become familiar with it too. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Financial Student Aid. It is a form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.
Many college applicants or their families do not qualify for need based financial aid. However, they should still complete the FAFSA because they may still qualify for student loans. College applicants also need the following to be eligible for financial aid: registration with the Selective Service System; being a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen; having a valid Social Security number; and having a high school diploma or GED. Check the financial aid application for specific details.
The FAFSA is available each year on October 1st. This is important because financial aid is usually given on a first come, first served basis. The sooner you complete the FAFSA, the better your chances are for getting financial aid. There are three options for completing the form:
- Online at fafsa.ed.gov
- In the myStudentAid mobile app
- Call 1-800-433-3243 to obtain a PDF of the form
Applicants can list up to ten schools to receive the results of the application once it is processed. After completing the FAFSA, students receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR provides a student with their potential eligibility for different types of financial aid, their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and a summary of the information they provided in the application. Students should carefully review the SAR for errors and make any corrections as necessary. An electronic version of the SAR (called an ISIR) is made available to the colleges/universities the student includes on the FAFSA. The ISIR is also sent to state agencies that award need-based aid.
- Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Stafford Loan
- Federal Work-Study Program
This can be a very confusing process for many. Especially if it is the first time you are going through it. I have two suggestions to help you to benefit from this process. First, start early! Second, ask plenty of questions. Ask the college counselor at your child’s high school. Ask the financial aid officer at the college(s) where your child applies. Ask friends, family members, and community organizations who are familiar with the process. There is financial aid available, but you have to understand the process and know where to look for the money. All the best!
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