Understanding the FAFSA
For some reason, the term “FAFSA” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to talking about getting a college education. But how many high school and college bound students really understand what the FAFSA is? If you’ve been in the dark and are tired of pretending to know what people are talking about, the following information will break down this concept in a way that is much easier to understand.
What the Heck Does FAFSA Stand For?
FAFSA is short for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” When spelled out, the purpose of this application is also given. The best way students can find out if they can afford college or how much money they’ll need, is to fill out and submit this application. The FAFSA helps determine how much money a particular student is able to receive to fund his/her college education. This is ideal because the application is designed to evaluate each person’s unique situation.
Where Do I Get the FAFSA?
Before the Internet boom, most high school guidance counselors’ offices contained tons of copies of the application for students to take home and fill out. However, gaining access to the FAFSA today is as simple as getting online and visiting the official FAFSA website. This option allows students to provide their information electronically, which eliminates tedious paperwork and dealing with hard copy applications. But there are other documentation and paperwork that must be provided in order for the FAFSA to be completed so follow the online instructions for filling out and submitting the form.
When Do I Need to Turn It In?
As with any application, it is crucial that students turn in their FAFSA before the deadline. The state of residence (where the student lives) and the school year they are planning on enrolling into a college or university is what will determine the actual deadline for submitting the application. This specific information can be found online, also through the FAFSA website. It is best to complete and turn in the FAFSA well in advance of the deadline. Doing so will decrease the chance of any delays with determining eligibility for financial aid. It also gives a student the chance to correct any mistakes or inaccuracies that may have been made in their application.
What Information Does the FAFSA Ask For?
The FAFSA mainly evaluates the financial need for college bound students. In order to accurately crunch the numbers, applicants must provide detailed financial information not only about the individual applying for financial aid but his/her parents financial history as well. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- W-2 Employment Forms
- Last Year’s Federal Income Tax Records
- Current Bank Statements
- Household Assets
- Driver’s License Number
- Social Security Card Number
- Marital Status
- Dependency Status of the Student
Remember, there is a different list of criteria needed for students and their parents. The FAFSA website breaks down these requirements and should be used as a checklist when filling out the application online.
The FAFSA Online
If you plan on filling out the FAFSA online, you will need to request a PIN, which is assigned by the US Department of Education. The PIN allows students and their parents to complete the application electronically, as well as check the status of their application and make any necessary changes.