For prospective college students, navigating the waters of college enrollment can be a challenge. You’ve probably heard all about FAFSA, but finding the answers to what it is, why you need it, and what it can do for you is making your head spin! Answering those questions, however, is critical to making the most of your college application process and gaining all the funds you’re due.
What Is FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for “free application for federal student aid,” and that’s exactly what it is. There are a number of federal programs in place that provide financial assistance to students who have the drive and desire to attend college, but not the funds to do so. FAFSA helps both students and the federal government determine what each individual student should receive in terms of financial help for college.
How Does FAFSA Help Me? (Aka: Why Fill It Out?)
College is expensive. Even if your parents are planning to pay for it, you need to put forth the effort to bring down those costs as much as possible. Merit-based scholarships and awards, need-based scholarships and awards, and federal aid will all help drive down the cost of your college tuition. If you’re paying for it on your own, filling out your FAFSA is even more important. The website states that nearly every student in America is eligible for some type of assistance. If you don’t fill out the form, that’s like turning down free money toward your college education! This help comes in the form of loans, grants, work study programs, and more, so there are plenty of opportunities well worth taking advantage of.
Where Can I Fill It Out?
Filling out your FAFSA is a complex process, but filing it isn’t! You can file online at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. This is also the best place to find out key information like your school’s codes, key announcements about upcoming deadlines, and information that will help you estimate how much federal aid you might receive even before you fill out the form.
What If I Don’t Fill It Out?
If you don’t fill out your FAFSA, nothing happens. The College Police won’t send out letters or notices to all of your prospective schools, and you won’t be denied admission. You also, however, won’t receive the federal funds you might be due to make it easier to complete your education. As a result, you’ll end up spending more to pay for college–and all because you wouldn’t take the time to fill out the form.
What Information Will the FAFSA Ask For?
As you fill out your FAFSA, there are several pieces of information you’ll need. First and foremost, you’ll need your income information and your spouse’s income information (if you have a spouse). If you’re under the age of 25, you’ll also need to report your parents’ income. This is true even if you’re married. You’ll also need your social security number, bank statements and investment records, and an FSA ID. Gathering all of the paperwork together before you start to work on your FAFSA will make the process smoother.
Does It Cost Anything to Fill Out My FAFSA?
Filling out and filing your FAFSA should always be free. This is, of course, invalidated if you plan to bribe a more experienced older sibling to do it for you; then, the cost is based on your bribe of choice.
Filling out your FAFSA isn’t mandatory, but it can go a long way toward helping you pay for college. There are several important deadlines that hit throughout the calendar year. Turn in your application as early as possible to be sure you don’t miss them!