If a student wants to start studying for a professional career in university, they must complete a few steps. One of them is filling out a federal financial aid application. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a vital step for students to pay for college. However, some people assume that completing this form can be a waste of their time; this cannot be further from the truth.
In this article, we will help you decide if you should fill out this form yearly. This single free form can ascertain a student’s eligibility for a wide range of grants and aid for people of all income levels. Additionally, the data you submit determines your eligibility for federal loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized; which can be very cost-effective substitutes for other types of loans.
- Why is the FAFSA important?
- Reasons to fill out the FAFSA form every year
- How to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA form?
- When to submit the FAFSA?
1. Why is the FAFSA important?
The FAFSA is a form that the federal government uses to collect the financial data necessary to determine what grants and loans you are eligible for. Therefore, each new academic year, the FAFSA must be submitted to qualify for this financial aid. Even though you are requesting federal assistance, the procedure is managed by the colleges or universities you intend to apply to. Filling out your FAFSA is crucial because it offers a variety of possible funding options, including loans and grants. The FAFSA is an essential tool to obtain scholarships and finance your education.
For several reasons, federal aid is the best way for students to pay for college. First, you may be eligible for grants; which are funds provided by the government that you do not have to repay. Nevertheless, you must repay any loans you accept, but they have lower interest rates and repayment does not begin until you graduate or otherwise stop attending school. Furthermore, if you qualify for a subsidized loan, interest does not begin to accrue until you leave school.
2. Reasons to fill out the FAFSA form every year
These are the reasons to fill out the FAFSA every year:
2.1 You may obtain more financial aid than you received the prior year
Financial aid eligibility changes from year to year. If your family’s financial situation has changed, perhaps one of your parents lost their job or one of your siblings started college, you may be eligible for more financial aid.
You can use prior-prior year tax information when filing the FAFSA form. Prior-prior year data is used to provide students with an estimate of their aid eligibility without having to wait until tax season to apply. Do not wait to complete the FAFSA if your status has changed significantly in the two years since your last tax filing. After you have filed your most recent taxes, you can go back and update your tax information.
2.2 You may obtain free money
The FAFSA is used by organizations that offer free college funding to determine your eligibility. Pell Grants loans are a great example because they do not require repayment as student loans do. However, because they are first-come, first-served, your best chance of being accepted is to apply as soon as you can after the FAFSA is made available. You may need to complete the FAFSA form to qualify for scholarships through your selected college too.
2.3 You may need new federal student aid
When grants, scholarships, savings, and work-study do not cover the entire cost of attending college, student loans can help bridge the gap. If you obtained a federal student loan the previous year, you will probably require one again this year.
The FAFSA is the only way to obtain federal student loans, which provide more protection and typically have lower interest rates than private student loans. It is best to exhaust federal aid before turning to private student loans; which people can obtain through banks and online lenders without completing this form.
3. How to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA form?
Students can use a computer or a mobile phone to complete the online FAFSA application. The paper version, known as the PDF FAFSA, can also be printed and filled out manually, or it can be filled out on the screen before printing and mailing.
People can start the FAFSA on one device, such as a smartphone, and finish it on another, such as a desktop computer, according to the Education Department. The FAFSA does not have to be submitted simultaneously by parents and students.
The steps to fill out the FAFSA form are:
3.1 Compile your documents
Students will need their driver’s license number or state ID, Social Security number (foreign registration number for non-US citizens), tax information, records of untaxed income, recent bank statements and investments, and a list of schools they wish to attend. On the other hand, parents will need their tax returns, untaxed income records, current bank statements, net worth, and investment information.
3.2 Create an FSA ID
Firstly, students must create an FSA ID, which serves as an electronic signature, before completing the FAFSA. On the Federal Student Aid website, both students and parents can find a link to create an FSA ID. Applicants will require their Social Security number, date of birth, and name as it appears on official documents to create a unique ID.
To sign the FAFSA online and sign in to the myStudentAid mobile app, you need an FSA ID. While a parent or student can use the FSA ID right away to sign a FAFSA application for the first time, other tasks, like a FAFSA renewal, must wait until the Social Security Administration has verified the data submitted to create the ID, which typically takes one to three days. Parents and students must create separate IDs.
3.3 Submit student and parent information
Students must fill out the FAFSA and provide details about their citizenship, marital status, place of residence, Social Security number, and the size of their household to apply for financial aid. Parents must submit the same data. Candidates must also list at least one college to which they intend to apply or have already applied to the school to receive their information.
3.4 Submit financial information
Applicants must submit their tax information two years before the academic year they will be applying. For example, a family filling out the form for the 2023-2024 academic year will use the 2021 tax return. After this, you can submit your form.
4. When to submit the FAFSA?
The FAFSA will be available on October 1st. That is the first day an applicant can apply for the upcoming academic year. While deadlines differ by school, the federal deadline is June 30. However, schools frequently establish priority completing dates, which can be as early as December 1.