Are you ready to further your education, but unsure of the process of obtaining and securing Financial Aid? In this article, I will guide you through the financial aid process that will continue to be beneficial throughout your entire college education in life! When in doubt, please don’t be afraid to direct all your questions and concerns to the student Financial Aid department at your campus. Don’t make the mistake of not educating yourself on the process. The last thing you and your parents want is to miss out any of the possible funds that would have otherwise been useful to you each semester.
As a student, and parents of a student that are considering Federal Student Aid, the steps in applying is not as difficult as one may think. The following is guidance and advice on the best ways to approach applying for Federal Aid, what to expect and everything in-between.
Federal Government Aid
Financial aid for your college will basically comprise funding from four important sources – the federal government, your state, your college as well as private scholarship sources.
The foremost step in procuring maximum financial aid is determining the amount of aid you would likely want. Make an estimate of the entire cost structure without eliminating any detail. This would give you clarity of your requirements through financial aid.
There are a variety of financial aid programs, which the federal government offers, choosing the right one is important. The federal government provides grants, work-study funds and low interest loans, which can cover tuition, accommodation expenses, textbooks, supplies and possibly transportation expenses. In some cases, care of dependents and additional supplies may be covered as well
Obtaining the Application for Federal Student Aid
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the venue that a student will utilize to apply for federal student aid. To obtain a clearer understanding of what kind of aid you may qualify for, you can use FAFSA4caster to determine how much aid you may receive. FAFSA4caster is an early eligibility estimator that can help you plan ahead when it comes to paying for college. See further details.
To be eligible to receive federal sources of financial aid every year, students must properly fill and submit the FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT FINANCIAL AID (FAFSA) to the Department of Education. Colleges will use a student’s FAFSA information to determine their eligibility for school and state aid, so this is a very important step. Note: The FAFSA is available only in early January each year and there are different DEADLINES for different programs, so make sure to follow the information below closely.
Federal Student Aid: The 2012-2013 FAFSA, a student can only apply between January 1/2012 and June 30/2013 (DEADLINE). The applications are on a “first come, first served” basis for the federal student aid programs, so be sure to get your application in as early as possible!
College School Aid: Students will need to check their desired colleges website or directly contact the college Financial Aid office, and ask when the DEADLINE is for applications (usually early on in the year – February or March).
Each year that a student attends college, they will need to go through this process of applying for student aid, each year. Filing out a FAFSA application and re-applying again, as this process does not carry over automatically.
Filing out the FAFSA is done in a few different ways:
- Fill out the FAFSA application online
- A paper form for FAFSA is downloaded in a PDF or a student can order an application from FAFSA.
Submitting FAFSA, students can submit online, mail or complete the paperwork in person at the college’s financial aid office.
The FAFSA application will require a great deal of information from the student, here is a short list of what to expect:
- Getting a PIN: Personal identification number strictly for student aid communication.
- Collecting documents that a student needs to apply: Social security number, driver’s license number, tax information, etc.
- Obtaining help: If you are not clear on certain steps, there are help sections to guide students along the process.
- Log in and provide a students basic, personal information.
- List colleges that a student wishes to attend: The most important should be listed first, and include the appropriate Federal School Codes.
- Establishing a students dependency status
- List student’s parents information
- List a student’s financial information
- Sign and submit the application for processing
Once a student FAFSA is submitted, they are also automatically applying for certain state financial aid, and some states may require additional information.
The Next Step
Applying for financial aid is not the last step, a students FAFSA has to be processed and it is at that time, which a student will be informed of how much (if any) their Expected Family Contribution will be.
The Financial Aid office at the college will determine the student aid amount, calculate “cost of attendance” (COA), consider a students EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and then subtract the EFC from the COA to establish the financial amount needed, which then gives a student a need-base aid figure.
To establish a student’s non-need-based aid that they may qualify for, the Financial Aid office will then calculate the cost of attendance and subtract any financial aid that a student may have already, or expect to be awarded later (scholarships, bursaries, loans, etc).
A students FAFSA application is automatically shared with the college(s) that are listed on their application. Once a student is offered Federal Aid, a student will then need to decide what federal aid to accept. Are there any offers of scholarships or grants that do not have to be paid back? Is there an offer for federal loans that will have to be paid back-typically six months after graduation? Once a student has narrowed down which offer(s) to accept, a student will need to respond to the award letter(s) by the DEADLINE date.
A student will receive their funds via the Financial Aid office where they are accepted. The Financial Aid staff will then explain when a student’s aid is paid out and how, and guide a student with any additional information that they will need to know, or any additional information that is required.
Your college is your future. These years in college should act as the foundation stones on which your success story is going to be built. So get prepared for it well in advance and make the most of it!
Image Credit: Keith Ramsey