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FAFSA Preparation Guidelines and Students’ Top-of-Mind Concerns

April 21, 2020

FAFSA Application: Who Can Submit And How To Fill In

It is no doubt that almost every student dreams of obtaining a good profession. That is why selecting a college becomes crucial for a future career. However, not all of you can afford to study at a desirable college. And even those who can also seek financial aid, like grants, scholarships, etc. as it will make college life easier.

Just think of so many additional expenses you will face at college: cost of education materials, residence fees, meals, and so on. At this juncture, it is advisable for all of you to consider completing Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is FAFSA shortly.

At this point, lots of students often have unjustified fears of applying for federal aid, though, in reality, there is nothing to worry about. Those who think that this process takes too much time, we assure you that it is not like that. All you need is to set your mind on it, prepare necessary information and documents at hand and proceed.

Below you will discover what exactly you need to know and provide to apply for this federal aid.

What is FAFSA and its importance for senior students

FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be described as an application for financial aid, which can be given to students who graduate from school and plan to enter a college.

By means of this application, the American education department and colleges can evaluate the financial ability of students and their families in terms of paying for a college.

After students complete and send this form, it is a review within two weeks. Then students receive SAR, which stands for Student Aid Report. It shows what amount of money a family can pay on its own – Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Thus, the amount of expected federal financial aid becomes clear.

Information about your family income becomes available to colleges, which you want to apply to. And colleges take into account EFC when compiling your financial aid package.

In general, federal student aid may include the following:

  • grants – money which is given for your study and doesn’t require a payback;
  • student loans – money which you will have to return;
  • work-study loans – money, for which you will have to work off.

What is important, it is a student and his/her family who decides which part of the financial aid package to select or reject.

Also note, completing the application for federal aid is at no charge. So it doesn’t cost you a thing to apply for FAFSA, but the benefit of it can’t be overestimated.

Moreover, colleges review your Application for Federal Aid when deciding on possible scholarships – they need it to estimate the financial support for you. It means you can even lose such an opportunity if you skip this application. So, make up the right conclusion and continue reading for more information.

Who can apply for federal aid

Students who live in the USA on a permanent basis or US citizens have the right to fill in the application for federal financial aid freely. Sometimes even foreign students can apply for it when financial aid departments at colleges require this information in order to decide on scholarship for them.

Speaking of emigrants, if a student has official documents stating that he/she is legal in the USA, he/she is allowed to apply for FAFSA, even if the parents haven’t got such documents. However, in this case, it is necessary to be sure that your action will not put your parents at risk. So, it is better to consult on this matter with a specialist.

In case you are an unauthorized immigrant too, you are not allowed to fill in the application for federal aid. At this point, you can only count on some other type of financial aid, which is oriented for undocumented immigrants.

Preparation steps for FAFSA

Usually, it takes about an hour to complete an application for federal aid. And to avoid additional waste of time, try to be prepared for submitting the application in advance. For that use the following steps:

  1. Determine the colleges you consider applying to (usually up to 10 options are allowed if submitting online).
  2. Learn about the deadline for federal aid application at all the colleges you are going to include in the form.
  3. Gather all the required documents;
  4. Define whether you are a dependent or independent applicant.
  5. Arrange a time for you and your parents to execute the form.
  6. Find beforehand federal school codes you are considering.
  7. Make sure you know your Social Security number (or have quick access to it).
  8. Prepare information about your family or personal income.

This is the summary of the main information you need to possess to be ready for FAFSA submission. Further, in the article, you will find answers to the most common questions about this procedure. So, don’t be lazy to read more!

Who is considered as a dependent or independent applicant

As you’ve seen above, to fill in FAFSA completely, you need to indicate whether you are dependent or independent on other people besides yourself. Most often, your parents are understood as those you may depend on financially. However, besides your birth mother or father, you may depend on other people as well, for example:

  • parents who adopted you;
  • a step-parent if he/she is married to your mother or father;

Even if you live separately from your parents, you are considered dependent. While in the following cases, your status should be stated as independent in the application:

  • you are married;
  • you support your own kids financially;
  • you are older than 24 years old;
  • you are from an orphanage or charitable institution;

Which documents are required

Make sure to prepare all the documents before working on your FAFSA. The set of documents might vary slightly depending on your dependency status, but the rest is unchanged.

Here’s the list of documents obligatory for each US applicant:

  • Social Security number of the applicant;
  • Social Security number of one or both of your parents;
  • Tax records of your parents or your own;
  • Records about your family or your own income and possessions;
  • Information about social security benefits or veteran s’ preference if so;
  • List of colleges you consider for applying to.

These are documents compulsory in other cases:

  • Driver’s license if so;
  • Permanent residence permit or foreign registration if you are not a US citizen;
  • Copy of foreign tax returns if your parents live not in the USA.

Anyway, double-check the current information about other possible data you need to prepare and provide for application according to your status and social conditions.

What is the Application period for FAFSA

Federal aid applications for 2019-2020 can be submitted starting from the 1st of October, 2018, and till the midnight of CST time zone, June 30, 2020. If you need financial aid for the school year 2020-2021, you have to apply within the period of October 1, 2019, and the 30th of June, 2021.

Please, keep in mind, though, in some states and colleges, the due period may differ. That is why make sure to check the rules of the specific place not to miss the deadline.

It is important to know that you can fill in the application online or send it by a snail mail. Of course, when applying by web, your Student Aid Report will get to you sooner than incase with a paper form. What is more, in our digital society, it is even possible now to use a mobile app to submit for federal student aid.

How to fill in FAFSA: important stages?

For a paper, application students fill out a FAFSA worksheet. If you’ve decided to apply for federal aid by web, first of all, you need to create a FSA ID, which is short for Federal Student Aid Identification. And it is basically your username and password assigned to you by the system for completing federal aid application.

Dependent students and their parents will have to create separate FSA IDs, as such username and password are needed to recognize users’ identity.

The second step will be to fill in student`s data on the website FAFSA.gov. There you will have to specify your demographic information (name, birthdate, age), indicate all the colleges you are aiming at, and describe your dependency status.

Then there is a section for your parent information, which you will need to provide even if you don’t live together at the moment.

Next comes the financial information section, where you will specify your and your parents’ income.

Finally, you need to sign the form electronically and submit it. Before that, don’t forget to double-check the information which you’ve entered to avoid additional corrections in the future.

And good news – once you’ve completed your federal aid application, it is going to be easier and less time consuming for you to do this next year. You will just have to renew or update the information instead of composing it from scratch.

How to increase the chances: Tips for FAFSA applicants

  1. Apply as early as possible. Even though it seems that you have so much time to apply for financial aid, do not put it on the back burner. There is such a rule for making a successful application – the earlier you submit it; the more chances you have to be granted federal aid. There is a limited amount of federal financial aid for students. It means, those who applied first will be more likely to receive aid than those who submit the forms, say, in spring, as the colleges may run out of funds till that time.
  2. Avoid errors and mistakes in the data you provide. Otherwise, it will lead to additional revisions and delays. Thus, it is better to spend a little more time and check everything properly than feel anxious whether the corrections are going to be validated in time.
  3. Include more colleges to the list. It will give you a wider range of options and will allow you to select the most reasonable variant.

I hope we did a good job, and this information will prove useful for you when completing FAFSA. If it happens that you face any difficulties with this demanding challenge, contact us for help.

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