Guide To Get Federal Student Aid
Getting money to pay for school can be an overwhelming experience. There are several types of aid ranging from grants, scholarships, loans, etc. What I want to focus on is how to become eligible for all of those types of student aid. The very first thing you have to do to be considered specifically for federal student aid (grants, scholarships, loans) is fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, which is most commonly referred to as the FAFSA. There are external scholarships and grants that you can apply for without filling out the FAFSA, but I will cover those in a later post.
Why Fill Out The FAFSA?
- Free money to help pay for school and educational expenses
- Receive student aid to help pay for cost of living (rent, transportation, food)
- Get access to work at school using federal work study
- Best of all, it’s FREE to apply!
Ok, so let’s begin with what you do before you start filling out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):
You will need to give yourself enough time to pull together records, tax forms, and other income documents from the past year. If you don’t have 2009 taxes completed yet, don’t worry! You can use estimates from December pay stubs. You will update this later once you get the actual tax information for 2010.
Before You Start the FAFSA
The following forms you will need, not all may apply to you. If you don’t know a term, it’s probably because it does not apply to you:
- Social Security Card and Driver’s License or State ID
- W-2 forms
- Federal Income Tax return, if married, spouses also
- Parents federal income tax returns if under 24 years of age
- Records of other untaxed income like welfare benefits (TANF), Social Security benefits, child support received, etc
- Current bank statements
- If not a US citizen, your permanent resident number or Alien Registration number
Most schools will tell you to fill out the FAFSA online because it gets processed a lot faster and there is less risk for the financial aid office to lose your paperwork. I’ve come across many students whose applications were incomplete because of the school department having missing pages. Make copies of EVERYTHING!
To Apply For FAFSA Online
- Go to the FAFSA Website and follow the steps to get a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Your parents will also need to set up a PIN if you are under the age of 24. DO NOT LOSE YOUR FAFSA PIN! It will cause many headaches later on.
- Fill out the FAFSA and submit it. If you use your PIN, you don’t have to sign and mail in a separate signature page…makes for a quicker process.
Remember: this is a FREE Application for Federal Student Aid, so if you come across anything that says pay to fill out the FAFSA, hit the x box on the top right of your screen and close the window.
After Completing the FAFSA
Once you fill out the FAFSA, it generates Student Aid Report, or SAR that will be sent to you. If you gave an email address when completing the FAFSA, you will receive a SAR right away to your email. If you haven’t received a SAR report after 4 weeks, you need to call them at 1(800) 433-3243 and ask about the delay in getting your SAR.
Last Thoughts on FAFSA
The FAFSA is the single most important document to fill out in order to be eligible for Federal Student Aid such as Pell Grants, Cal Grants, Scholarships, Work Study, and Loans. All schools, public four year universities, community colleges, online colleges and online universities, vocational programs and training programs will all ask you to complete the FAFSA.
I will provide external scholarship and grant information and how to get free money for school in future posts. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, this is the place to get the correct answers.
College Help: “Regardless if you think you are eligible, fill out the Federal Financial Aid Application anyway!”