FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form that is filled out by university students and parents to apply for federal financial aid, which includes grants, scholarships, student loans and work-study programs. In addition to the federal government, schools, states and private financial institutions also use the information from the FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility for non-federal aid.
Each year, the Department of Education issues a new FAFSA for the subsequent academic year. You can either use the online version of FAFSA or you can obtain a printed copy of the application form from your high school counselor. If you intend to use the online version, then you would have to apply for Personal Identification Number (PIN). For this you would have to submit your name, date of birth, social security number and address. Once, you get your PIN, you can fill out the form and submit it online or print it and send it by mail.
While the printed version of FAFSA becomes available in the second week of October, the online version becomes accessible on January 1. Although the last date for the submission of FAFSA is June 30, but you can submit the form in either format as early as January 2. Most colleges and universities award financial aid on first come, first serve basis. Hence, to improve your chances of receiving financial aid, try to submit the FAFSA latest by March 1.
There are 102 questions in FAFSA, which are segregated into six sections. The primary aim of these questions is to retrieve your academic, personal and financial information. You would also be required to divulge your dependency status, colleges you want to receive your FAFSA results and your identification information. For filling out the FAFSA properly, you would need previous two year’s copies of your income tax returns.
Once you submit the FAFSA, the government will scrutinize it thoroughly, and then send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR typically includes a summary of your financial aid information and the EFC (Expected Family Contribution). The colleges enlisted in your FAFSA will also receive SAR. When you apply for admission in these colleges, you will be asked to submit additional financial information. Thereafter, your eligibility for financial aid will be calculated, and then you will be notified about the kind of financial aid package the college can award you.