According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of undergraduate tuition and fees, along with room and board at a public institution, was approximately $16,757 for the 2015-2016 academic year. Looking at a private nonprofit institution? The average cost was estimated at $43,065 for that same year. As we know, tuition costs tend to go up, not down. So, regardless of whether you’ve set your sights on a public university or private one, you’ll probably need financial aid.
That part-time job you’ve had for the past couple of years will help pay for your education. But unless you spent the past few summers successfully panning for gold, you’re likely looking for other sources to fund your college bills. Maybe your parents can help with some of your expenses. Even so, in order to complete your college education, you’ll need money, and in order to get that money, you’ll need FAFSA.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form that students complete to check whether they’re eligible to receive financial aid. Federal student aid includes grants, work-study programs, and low-cost loans. The U.S. Department of Education uses the data from the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. The FAFSA may also determine your eligibility for state and school aid. There’s a good chance that you’re eligible for some form of financial aid, and even if you’re not, you’ll learn whether or not you’re eligible for a Stafford Loan.
The FAFSA opens the door to the following sources of financial aid offered by the federal government:
- Pell Grants provide grants of up to $5,815 for students with an expected lower family contribution, according to statistics from the 2016-2017 award year. Students who failed to complete the FAFSA lost out on $2.7 billion in free federal Pell grants, so don’t let that happen to you. If there’s money available, you should get your share of it.
- Federal Work-Study Programs provide part-time work for students. Generally, the federal government pays half of the student’s wages while the school pays the other half.
- Stafford Loans are federal direct subsidized loans with a fixed interest rate of 4.29%. As long as the student is enrolled at least half-time, the interest on the loan is paid by the government. Unsubsidized loans are also available at the same fixed interest rate.
- Federal Perkins Loans are like the Stafford Loans, but schools that are Title-IV eligible lend the funds to the student directly at a fixed 5% interest rate.
Tell FAFSA where you want to go.
You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA form. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been accepted to attend the school or if you’re sure you want to go there. These schools will automatically receive the results of your FAFSA and use that information to decide what kind of financial aid, and what amounts, you’re eligible to receive. You aren’t obligated to apply for admission to a school on the list.
FAFSA dates and deadlines.
In order to complete the 2019-2020 FAFSA, you’ll need tax information from 2017.
FAFSA forms for the 2019-2020 year became available on October 1, 2018. You can fill it out now because…
The application should be completed as soon as possible after January 1. That’s right, the same date that your New Year’s resolutions begin. Turn 2019 into the year that you do things on time. Mark your calendar for January 1, 2019 and submit the FAFSA before…
The June 30 deadline for the academic year.
Things to remember.
State FAFSA deadlines may be earlier than federal deadlines. Double-check that everything is submitted by the correct timeline.
Federal funds are disbursed as soon as the FAFSA applications are approved. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you’ll know if you were approved.
You can apply for the FAFSA by:
- Going online
- Calling 1-800-433-3243
- Filling out the paper form
You can correct mistakes immediately if you complete your FAFSA online. Mistakes on a written application can delay the response time and possibly the amount of the money you’ll receive.
The FAFSA help site is designed to provide students and parents with instructions as they fill out the form. Here are some of the most common questions:
Which FAFSA® form should I file?
What are the deadlines for filling out the FAFSA form?
How can my parent fill out the FAFSA if they can’t use my FSA ID?
Why do I have to submit my 2017 tax and income information on my 2019–20 FAFSA form?
What do I do if my FSA ID email address hasn’t been verified?
What do I do if I forgot my FSA ID username and password?
Don’t wait until a college accepts you to complete the FAFSA. Regardless of which college you plan to attend or whether you’ll qualify for FAFSA money, this is a useful form to have on record.
Don’t wait to create your FSA ID, which allows you to log in to U.S. Department of Education websites. If you’re a dependent student, one of your parents will also need to create a FSA ID. This username and password pairing lets you access the myStudentAid app and other information, sign loan contracts, and sign your FAFSA form electronically. You can create your FAFSA ID ahead of time, so it’s ready when you fill out the FAFSA.
There’s a lot to do to get the education you want and fulfill your dream. Completing the FAFSA is one of the easiest ways to make those dreams come true.