FAFSA: it’s a scary word. How’s it even pronounced? Whatever the answer, the word alone is known to cause headaches and stress. (The answer is F-a-F-Sah, for the record).
Of course, receiving free money for college sounds great. That’s not the issue. But the process sounds scary enough that it seems not worth the effort at times.
But it is worth the effort. And while we can’t promise you won’t experience head pains, you can ease your stress by following a few important tips.
If you’re graduating by this summer, first off, congratulations! We will be posting information on the ceremony within the next couple of weeks.
But more importantly, now’s the time to start planning on financing your post-secondary education.
If you think you can’t afford college, we’re here to say “Yes, you can.”
There are several scholarships you can earn. And they don’t all require you earning straight A’s, or being athletically inclined.
One such “scholarship” is qualifying for financial aid, or money granted to you by the Federal Government by filling out a Free Application for Student Aid (FASFA) form.
This money is granted to college students, and depending on if you qualify, you can either get approved for a loan or receive a grant. A grant is money given to you to attend college that you don’t have to pay back. Here’s what you need to know about FASFA.
“Should I Apply For FAFSA?” Quiz
Take the quiz below to see if you might qualify.
(hint: the answer is probably yes)
Scholarship Versus Grant Versus a Loan
In the simplest terms:
- Scholarship= Free money from a college or other provider
- Grant= Free money from the government
- Loan= Money you have to pay back
Receiving loans through FAFSA can be useful, considering they do not need to be paid while attending college. Keep in mind that interest rates after graduation can be high, and the payments demanding. If you can find grants and scholarships, these will serve you much better in the long run.
Scholarships are separate from FAFSA. You can obtain scholarships through the college you’re attending. Oftentimes, this is based on grades or talents. You can find several third-party scholarships, however.
Does Income Level Impact FAFSA Approval?
It’s a common misconception that FAFSA only applies to students with low incomes. Although that can be the case, FAFSA is actually determined on your cost ratio.
Colleges want you to contribute about 47% of your net annual income. If the price of tuition/books exceeds that percentage of your ratio, you are granted aid.
So, if you come from a lower income, chances are, the percentage of college costs to your total income would be a high ratio.
But that does not mean those who have higher incomes shouldn’t apply. For example, if two students’ have parents with the same income, say $100,000, but one student is attending a community college while the other is attending an expensive private university. In this case, the student attending a private university student is more likely to receive financial aid. You can learn more about this here.
In other words, regardless of your income, you should apply for FAFSA. It’s free to apply, and you definitely won’t receive any aid if you don’t try.
Items Needed to Complete FAFSA
- Your social security number
- OR your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. Citizen
- Your parents’ most recent Tax Return forms, including W2 forms and any other form of income
How to Apply
- Head to the FAFSA site and start an application
- You will need to create a PIN number. It can be hard to retrieve if you forget, so make it memorable!
- Fill out the entire form using the items above.
For more detailed instructions on the application process, check out this Infographic.
What if I Don’t Know Where I’m Going to School After Graduation?
If you are unsure where you are attending college after graduation, you don’t have to wait to apply. The FAFSA form is the same no matter where you attend. It can make a difference in the amount you receive, but it’s better to apply early than to wait on your decision.
A Few Important Things to Note
- FAFSA opened January 1 and runs through about May
- The earlier you apply, the better! Students who apply in January are much more likely to receive grants than those in May.
- Many scholarships require a FAFSA form, so if you plan to apply for any scholarships, be sure to complete your FAFSA form this month.
- The May deadline applies to students attending college in the Fall 2018 semester. Students who are not attending until the Spring 2017 semester have until December 2018 to complete the form. But, again, the earlier you apply, the better.
- Students, what are your plans after high school? Share with us in the comments below!
No matter your plans after high school, be sure to take the time to fill out a FAFSA form. It certainly won’t hurt, and can potentially give you free money to use toward your education.
For any questions, you can always reach out to your guidance counselor. We will assign a College and Career Specialist who can answer your questions, walk you through the process and develop an action plan with you. The help you need to get funding for college is readily available! Give us a call at 480.456.6678.