If you plan to attend a postsecondary institution, such as a college or vocational school, you have probably been asked to complete the FAFSA. FAFSA is an acronym that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is vital for any U.S. student who hopes to receive federal aid. It is also a requirement for most colleges.
Filing a FAFSA can be done in three ways.
The first option is to file online. The official FAFSA website is www.fafsa.ed.gov. There is also a for-pay website by a similar name, fafsa.com. This in not the official website, but many people accidentally use it. If you are concerned, remember two things: It’s the Federal application, so it is a .gov website and it’s the Free Application, so at no point should you have to pay to apply.
The second option is using the PDF form. If you choose this option, you can download the FAFSA PDF from the official website. You can either print the application and fill it in or fill in the blanks on your computer and then print. The printed document cannot be saved and must be mailed.
The final option is to request a paper version. According to present FAFSA information, you can do this by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-319-337-5665. (Hearing impaired TTY users can call 1-800-730-8913.) They will then mail you a form to complete and mail back.
To file, you will need some information on your family and finances. The form will ask a number of questions, included but not limited to income, parents’ educational background, and your residency status. Try to gather as much information as you can before beginning to help keep the application simple.
After your FAFSA has been reviewed, you will recieve a Student Aid Report (also known as a SAR.) The SAR summarizes the information you supplied in your FAFSA. Many students eagerly or anxiously await the SAR because it contains their EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. This number signifies how much your family is expected to contribute to your education (not necessarily that they will.) It is based on different things, such as income, savings, etc. A student with a high EFC will not recieve as much financial-based aid as someone who has a low EFC or an EFC of zero dollars. This does not mean that students with high Expected Family Contributions will not recieve aid from other sources, such as private foundations or scholarships based on scholastic merit. Because the FAFSA is typically re-filed for every year a student plans to attend college, the EFC can potentially change. For example, if someone’s income drops or increases significantly or he suffers a financial hardship, his EFC will likely be different than it was previously.
Some final notes:
Be sure to keep a copy of your FAFSA for reference or just in case it gets lost in transit.
Leave nothing blank. If you made zero dollars last year, write in a zero. When you leave something blank, it is assumed that you forgot to fill it in.
Don’t fib about your income.
Be sure to complete your FAFSA in a timely manner.
If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. The FAFSA website has a great online representative system. If you’re stumped, just click that button to chat with a professional. Better to take a bit longer than to fill something in incorrectly.
FAFSA official site