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FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions

Guest Author - Susan D. Bates

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application for federal student financial aid in the United States. This aid includes federal grants, work-study funds, and student loans. While the primary purpose of the FAFSA is to determine eligibility for federal financial aid, it is also used by many colleges, states governments, and scholarship-granting organizations to determine eligibility for other need-based awards.

When should I submit the FAFSA?

You can complete the FAFSA as early as the first of January each year. It is best to complete it as soon as possible after that date because many grants are disbursed to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. The students who complete their applications early are often awarded a greater proportion of grant money in their financial aid package.

How often do I have to submit a FAFSA?

You must submit a new FAFSA each year. It is always available on the first day of January.

Where do I find the FAFSA

The FAFSA can be found online at http://www.fafsa.gov. Be careful to go only to the government website (the site ending in ď.govĒ). Sites with similar names, but ending in ď.comĒ may charge a fee for submitting your FAFSA.

Students who prefer to have a paper copy of the FAFSA mailed to them can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The phone number for the center is 1-800-433-3243.

What documents and information do I need to have to be able to complete the FAFSA?

  • Driverís license number

  • Social security numbers for you and your parents (if you are a dependent student)

  • Contact information for you and your parents (if you are a dependent student)

  • Alien registration number (if applicable)

  • Federal tax return for you and your parents. (if you are a dependent student) You can estimate your family's income if a tax return is not available. The income information may require verification and can be adjusted at a later date)

  • Bank statements and other financial information

  • Record of any untaxed income

How is financial aid determined?

Financial aid awards are based on the expected family contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined by a formula established by law that measures familiesí finances. It is not a measure of a familyís actual contribution to a studentís education.

Do I have to include my parentsí income?

If you are considered a dependent student, you must report information about both your and your parentsí financial information. Dependency for financial aid purposes is determined by criteria set by the government, not based on parental support nor based on tax dependency. For specific determination criteria, students should visit the FAFSA website or see their financial aid counselor at the college they attend or plan to attend).

Which parent do I list on my FAFSA?

If you are considered a dependent student, you must list information for at least one parent on their FAFSA. If your parents are married to each other then both parents must be listed. If your parents are divorced or were never married to one another, list the parent (and stepparent, if applicable) you lived with the majority of the time during the past 12 months. If you lived an equal time with both parents or you do not live with either parent, include the parent and stepparent from whom they received the greatest support.

If you live with a person other than your parents, you cannot list that personís information unless they have legally adopted you. If you live in foster care or in a legal guardianship you might be considered independent for financial aid purposes.

If you are unable to get your parentís information due to parental abuse or because you cannot locate your parents, contact the financial aid office of the college you attend or plan to attend.

What if I have special circumstances?

If you have experienced unusual circumstances that you believe should be taken into account when determining your financial aid eligibility, contact the financial aid office of the college you attend or plan to attend. Some examples of circumstances that might be taken into account include the recent loss of a parent, being laid off from a job, or being a victim of a natural disaster.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Susan D. Bates. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan D. Bates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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