Financing higher education can be a challenge these days. Fortunately, various federal aid programs for grants, loans and work-study are available for students through the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application process may seem intimidating at first, but there are countless resources online and in financial aid offices to help students apply for the best possible assistance.
The first step in any case is to check your eligibility. To receive allowances from the US Department of Education student aid, you must:
- Be able to demonstrate financial need.
- Be a US citizen, or eligible non-citizen.
- Enroll as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
- Sign an educational purpose statement, along with a certification statement on overpayment and default (included in FAFSA)
- Register with selective service, if required.
- Achieve and maintain satisfactory progress which includes a cumulative GPA of 2.0 (“C”) or above, 90% attendance rate and an acceptable percentage of the program's scheduled objectives.
- Demonstrate the ability to benefit which includes the following criteria: high school transcript proving graduation, General Equivalency Diploma (GED), or proving ability the ability to benefit by passing and exam that has been approved by the US Department of Education.
- Completing any further eligibility requirements dictated by the school financial aid office.
Before applying, you should have the following records available:
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Permanent resident card (if necessary)
- W2 forms and other recent income records
- Most recent income tax return
- Most recent record of untaxed income including Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare and veteran benefits (if applicable)
- Paid child Support records
- Taxable earnings from Federal Work-Study or other need based employment programs
- Current bank statements
- Current business or farm records
- Current stocks, bonds or other investment records
- Records of student grant, fellowship awards, scholarship included in your (or parents) AGI
Next, complete the process in the following steps:
Fill out the FAFSA application – Most high school, college and university financial aid offices have copies of the FAFSA form readily available. They will provide you with the school code to list on the form. You can also complete an application online at www.fafsa.ed.gov, which will allow you to obtain a PIN number (this serves as your electronic signature), access to school codes and the ability to save and resume application activities. Parents of dependent students should apply for a PIN number as well.
Submit the FAFSA form for processing – You may choose to mail the completed application directly to Federal Student Aid Process Center in the envelope provided or submit it online when complete. Make sure to do this in a timely fashion, meeting current deadlines. Some schools will submit the forms for you via the financial aid office.
Await response – Depending on how and when you submitted your FAFSA application; you will receive a Student Aid Report in approximately three to six weeks. You may need to provide additional information, so go over this report carefully and respond to any questions pertaining to your potential aid. The report will provide directions on how to make the proper adjustments.
Often, the financial aid office can give you an aid estimate once your file has been completed.
Though paper or electronic submissions are both available, there are definitely advantages to completing FAFSA forms on the web. Some of these include:
- Easy PIN number application
- Complete list of simple directions, definitions terms and conditions
- List of federal school codes
- Immediate access to application status and Student Aid Report when available
- Ability to save and resume application activities
- Helpful bank of frequently asked, online chat assistance and technical help
- Data is checked before processing to avoid error
- Expedited processing
FAFSA is extremely helpful to students and families in need of educational aid. Don’t hesitate to find out more from your school or official websites.