FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): Everything You Need to Know

It’s a type of claim for U.S citizens, with which they can request financial aid for collegial tuition and other expenses.

Virtually all 2- and 4-year career schools, universities, and colleges use the FAFSA for awarding state, federal, and college-funded student aid. Information from the FAFSA is also used by several private scholarship programs to decide about their own financial aids.

The first step for a student interested in getting financial aid, like loans, grants, and work-study is to check their eligibility for the FAFSA. The next step is to complete the form online and submit it.

The FAFSA includes several questions that are designed to find out what the applicant’s level of financial need is and ascertain their EFC (Expected Family Contribution). EFC is the money the student and their parents are likely to be able to pay every year for the student’s college costs, as per the federal rules.

Since the FAFSA includes a long list of questions, completing it properly is crucial. This is especially true in case a student is filling it for the first time. A student should have adequate time on their hands while filling out the FAFSA and avoid hurrying and missing or supplying incorrect information.

The questions students need to fill for the FAFSA range from fundamental identifying information for the student and their parents, such as name, date of birth, address, driver’s license, SSN (Social Security number), etc., to a thorough check of their finances.

Students and their parents will also need to supply information about their assets and income, including investments, bank accounts, real estate (excluding the family home), and any businesses they possess (except for small businesses and family farms). Much of this information appears on the family tax returns, which can be automatically downloaded from the IRS with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in several cases. The student completing the FAFSA will need permission from the family member who completed the tax return if they would like to import the required information directly from the IRS. Else, they and their parents will need to fill the necessary details on the FAFSA.

As for completing the other financial questions, having statements of mutual funds, bank, real estate investment, stocks and brokerage, etc., handy would be useful. Since the office of Federal Student Aid makes an online copy of the printed FAFSA form available, students and their parents should preview it and get the necessary documents handy before they start filling it.

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