Every year around this time in February college students go through the same, rigorous process of filling out this long form that has initials that hardly even anyone knows what they stand for.
But the FAFSA, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is just what the name indicates. It is essentially a free form that will make you eligible for government loans and grants that will help you pay your way through college. You can get ahold of the paper forms from your College or University, and if you are a high school senior, you need to fill this out also if you are planning to attend a college in the fall.
However, if you are like many people who love to have things simplified, the FAFSA can actually be filled out and completed online. The government has a website where you can fill the FAFSA out all electronically and it will be sent to the schools of your choice without the aid of any envelopes, stamps, or trips to the post office. This website can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
The form actually seems a bit confusing at first, but after you take a deep breath you should realize that it only takes a bit of time to complete the form. Although it is suggested that you have filled out your Federal tax forms beforehand, you can always guesstimate at what your taxes will be and fill in the correct amount later with an adjustment to the FAFSA.
Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines!
The important thing to remember when filling out the form is that it is completed by your College or University’s financial aid deadline. This is the deadline that you should adhere to if you want to qualify for some extra loans and grants for your school. Some colleges will have this deadline in early January, but others may push it back to mid-to-late February or March. Consult your school to find the deadline.
Do Not Pay For Help!
If you do have questions about the FAFSA, the government has a phone number available on their FAFSA website that you can call if you run into any trouble. However, there is no need to pay for help from your tax man or other service that will charge for their FAFSA expertise. Filling the form out yourself will actually give you a sense of relief and pride that you have actually completed it on your own.
After you are finished filling out the FAFSA you should be ready to electronically sign the form. Once you have signed the form all you have to do is wait for it to be processed to find out which types of financial aid that you qualify.
Interpreting the Results!
What you will receive following the FAFSA is your Student Aid Report, or SAR, which will have a number that you need to pay attention to. The lower the number that you receive means the more financial aid that you qualify for! For example, receiving a score of zero means that you qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid that your eligible for through the federal governement and your college. Higher numbers rank accordingly, but unfortunately, only the financial aid employees at your school know how to interpret these scores. However, if you do have questions about the results of your FAFSA and think you should be eligible for more financial aid, talk to your school financial aid counselors. They have a wealth of information that they will share with you; you only have to ask!
Hopefully now you can understand the FAFSA a little bit better before and be even more prepared to complete the whole cycle over again next year!