January 1, 2013 is the first day the college bound can file their FAFSA for the 2013-2014 school year. Counselors, states and the federal government are urging students to submit this federal financial aid form as soon as possible, if they need money to pay for college. Filing FAFSA is a major part of college prep.
What is FAFSA
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. According to the Department of Education (ED) Federal Student Aid website, "We provide more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year, but you have to complete the FAFSA to see if you can get any of that money."
When to file
For the 2013-14 school year, FAFSA filing starts on January 1, 2013. Students do not reapply for each semester of attendance. One FAFSA covers the entire school year.
Applicants are urged to file their FAFSA as soon as possible because some federal and college programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. When the money runs out, there may be nothing left to give to later but otherwise eligible filers. The FAFSA may be required before students can apply to other sources of financial aid. These, too, may give their dollars out to early birds, first.
What is federal student aid
Federal student aid is money awarded to eligible students to help pay for their education. Under Title IV, financial aid takes three different forms. Federal grants are free money that does not have to be paid back. Federal student loans must be paid back but they are regulated by the federal government. They have favorable terms and conditions making them the best loans available for college. Federal work-study is a job program where students usually work on campus and receive a paycheck.
What is EFC
Eligibility for federal student aid is based on the applicant's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The ED calculates this EFC by applying federal formulas to the information provided on the FAFSA. Then it reports the EFC on a Student Aid Report (SAR). The ED sends the SAR to the FAFSA filer. The student can select colleges and universities to receive his FAFSA information, too. The schools use the info to calculate financial aid for their student body. They send admitted students an award letter listing federal grants, loans and work-study they are eligible to receive.
Why File FAFSA
FAFSA is a gateway form. Not only does it provide provide federal financial aid for eligible students, but other sources of money for college may require the prior filing of this federal form. Some other sources may award higher amounts than those from federal financial aid. Students seeking to maximize their financial aid awards can do a scholarship search and apply for state, institutional and private grants and scholarships.
State aid may depend on a FAFSA filing. For example, Long Islanders must file a FAFSA first before they can submit their TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) application for New York State’s financial aid program.
While some colleges have their own financial aid forms, others use the FAFSA to award monies from their own institutional funds.
Private sources such as employers, high schools, businesses, organizations and individual donors may require the FAFSA to determine whether students qualify for scholarships.
How to file FAFSA
Most applicants apply for financial aid online using FAFSA on the Web. There are helpful tips and pop-up explanations to help filers as they fill out their form.
Applicants and families can request a paper FAFSA by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) toll-free at 800/4-FED-AID (800/433-3243).
Online FAFSA filers can prepare with a FAFSA on the Web Worksheet before filing FAFSA. They can sign their FAFSA electronically with a PIN.
Students and their families can use FAFSA4Caster to estimate their amount of federal aid eligibility.
Applicants can provide any additional special circumstances directly to the college's Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) because FAFSA does not have an explanation section. FAAs can use their professional judgement to change aid awards if the FAFSA does not accurately reflect a family's financial situation because of certain reasons like loss of a job, high medical and child care expenses. Those who suffered financially from Super Storm Sandy can explain their situation.
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