The FAFSA–Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2020–2021 school year is now available! It’s smart to apply as soon as possible as some schools have limited funds that are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. The FAFSA will be used in determining you or your child’s eligibility for a variety of scholarships, subsidized student loans, grants, and other need-based financial aid. Here are some quick facts about the FAFSA:
- To apply for federal aid, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The deadlines vary by college, so apply early. Everyone is required to file– even if you don’t think you will qualify.
- When filling out the FAFSA, you will need detailed financial information including, income, tax returns, and investments, for yourself and your family (if you’re applying as part of a family unit).
- A few weeks after completing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail and results from the colleges you selected. The SAR will tell you what kind of aid – and how much – you can receive.
- Start researching scholarships so your college funding is not fully done by loans. There are many search engines and databases to choose from, such as Scholarships.com, College-Scholarships.com, Fastweb.com, and others. Your selected college or current high school may have additional scholarship opportunities.
- Talk to the professionals in the financial aid office at your chosen college. They are sure to have experience in determining the best course of action for someone in your situation.
Once you have explored all “free money” and “cheap money” options, students may sometimes have a “gap” in their funding and how much they need to cover their expenses. When it’s time to look into loans, seek those with zero origination or prepayment fees, low-interest rates, flexible deferment, and repayment options. A simplified application process is a bonus here too! Verify that the loan is certified through the school – which means the school verifies the amount you need to borrow to prevent you from borrowing too much or too little. Funds should be distributed directly to the school and any difference is paid to the borrower for books, transportation, technology, and other necessities.