Applying for Financial Aid
"Applying for Financial Aid" submitted by SchoolGrantsfor Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 8th January 2012
Who is eligible for financial aid? If you meet the criteria listed below, then you are eligible:
- You must have a high school diploma, GED or pass a test approved by the U.S. Department of Education
- You must have a valid social security number
- You must be enrolled in an eligible associate, bachelor or graduate degree program before you can receive the funds
- You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- You must maintain satisfactory academic progress once you are in school
- You must have a financial need. NOTE: Let the financial aid office make this determination
Believe it or not, approximately 70% of full-time students receive some form of financial aid -- federal, state, school or private assistance. Your chances of receiving aid depend on your financial situation and the school you attend; however, you must apply to find out if and how much you can obtain. Read more in Dependent vs. Independent Student? Determine Dependency Status For Federal Student Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the place to start for almost all student financial assistance programs. You must complete this FREE application to receive any federal student aid. Some schools use the FAFSA information and results as part of their application process for non-federal aid. You can obtain the FAFSA form online at: www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Be sure to complete and submit the FAFSA form as soon after January 1 as possible. After the U.S. DOE processes your family information, they will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). The same information is sent to the schools you list on your FAFSA form. The report lists the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which the school uses to determine your financial aid package. The EFC is determined by the U.S. DOE using many variables from the information your family submits on the FAFSA application form.
Important Note Before You Apply For FAFSA
Applying for federal student aid grants, work-study and loans is FREE! Why pay a third party for help with the FAFSA? Help in completing the FAFSASM is available from office for free and there are no fees of any kind assessed by the government when you submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Federal Student Aid PIN gives access to personal information and therefore should be kept PRIVATE.
You should not share your PIN with anyone, even if that person is helping you fill out the FAFSA. Counselors should not offer to hold onto students’ PINs. Read the FAFSA instructions very carefully and pay close attention to questions on income because most errors occur in that area. Save all records and materials used to complete your FAFSA. Make a copy of your paper FAFSA or print the summary page of your FAFSA on the Web data and your confirmation page. You might need them later to prove the information you reported was accurate.
The process of documenting the information you provided on the FAFSA is called "verification." If your application is selected for verification and you do not provide the documents requested on time, you will not receive federal student aid and you might not receive aid from other nonfederal sources. You can get all the help you need for FREE from one of these sources. NEVER pay anyone for assistance. in completing the online or paper FAFSA.
Applying FAFSA Online
- Go online to www.fafsa.ed.gov.
- As an alternative, go online to www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov and click on “FAFSA.”
- If you have created a “MyFSA” account at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/myfsa, many sections of the FAFSA will automatically be completed for you, saving time and eliminating mistakes.
- If you previously completed FAFSA4caster SM, you may choose to have your FAFSA populated with the information you already provided. If you complete FAFSA4caster and need to apply for aid right away, just follow the instructions in FAFSA4caster and finish the process of applying for aid.
If you applied using a paper FAFSA, there are additional steps you need to take to ensure you’re considered for the ACG. If you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and within the age range to have graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2005, additional questions will be asked during the online application process. The paper FAFSA does not contain these questions. Applicants who fi le the paper FAFSA and who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and within the age range to have graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2005, will receive information to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID to answer additional questions.
If your financial situation changes after you submit your FAFSA, contact your financial aid office. Ask if your college has a formal process to handle appeals and be prepared to provide supporting documentation. Ask your college’s financial aid office if you were awarded student employment, including hours, duties, pay rate and how you’ll be paid. Don’t be shy—it’s your future! Also See: Free Help Completing the FAFSA
CSS/Financial Aid Profile
However, the FAFSA may not be the only form you will need to submit. Incoming freshman may also need to complete the CSS Profile Application. Many Private colleges require the profile. Why? Well, it gives financial aid administrators a broader set of data from which to derive your eligibility for institutional need-based assistance. You also complete the Profile much earlier than the FAFSA and many schools will provide a financial aid package earlier than would be possible if you wait to complete the FAFSA. Check with your college to see if you are required to complete the Profile. Generally, the Profile application becomes available in the middle of October. The PROFILE is administered by the College Scholarship Service® (CSS), a division of the College Board. You can register and apply online at:
The most common mistakes people make when completing the financial aid process are:
- not applying early enough
- not reading instructions
- failure to complete applications fully and correctly
- not using the correct social security number
Keep these in mind as you complete applications.