If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. The 2018–19 FAFSA form was made available as of Oct. 1, 2017. You should fill it out as soon as possible on the official government site, fafsa.gov.
It’ll be easier to complete the FAFSA form if you gather what you need ahead of time. Below is what you’ll need to fill it out.
Everyone’s college experience is unique—and probably not quite what they were expecting, but here are some tried and true tips on how to get through it.
1. Get involved.
This point may be the most overhyped, but it’s still valid. Go to your school’s activities fair if they have one; otherwise, keep your eyes open for opportunities to join different clubs or teams. Joining a club or team can often provide a much-needed relief from your everyday classes or responsibilities, and it’s a great way to meet new people or to try something new! Many schools even have niche groups such as unicycle clubs, quidditch teams (of Harry Potter fame), and virtual reality clubs. If you don’t find a club that aligns with your interests, you can always start your own!
One of the questions we receive most often is: “Why didn’t I get more money for school?” It’s especially frustrating when you have no idea how a school decided on your aid offer. Hopefully, this information will shed some light on how schools calculate your financial aid.
It all starts when you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Once we (Federal Student Aid) process your application (it takes about three days if you submitted it online), we make your information available to all of the schools you listed on it. Each school then uses your FAFSA information to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive at that school. Each school has its own schedule for awarding financial aid. You must check with each school to find out when you can expect to receive an aid offer.
If you didn’t make payments on your federal student loans and are now in default, don’t get discouraged. It may seem like an overwhelming situation, but you have multiple options for getting out of default. Remember, it’s in your best interest to act quickly to resolve the default, because the consequences of default can be severe.
If you have a defaulted federal student loan owned by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), immediately contact ED’s Default Resolution Group. They will help you figure out the best way to resolve the default based on your individual circumstance.
If you’re looking for another way to help pay for college, Federal Work-Study may be a great option for you. Work-study is a way for students to earn money to pay for school through part-time on- (and sometimes off-) campus jobs. The program gives students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while pursuing a college degree. However, not every school participates in the Federal Work-Study Program. Schools that do participate have a limited amount of funds they can award to eligible students. This is why it is so important for students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form as early as possible, as some schools award work-study funds on a first-come, first-served basis.
Here are eight things you should know about the Federal Work-Study Program:
The reality of paying for college is that many families find themselves struggling to cover the entire college bill, despite having already filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and receiving federal, state, and school-based financial aid and scholarships. If you find yourself in this position, here are some ideas to consider and places to look to help fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school.
TIP: The financial aid office at your school is an excellent resource. If you didn’t get enough financial aid, contact your school’s financial aid office. They can help you explore your options.
Recently married? Getting married soon? Congratulations! Weddings can require a lot of planning, and you probably already have a ton on your plate, but there is one item you may not have on your to-do list that I recommend you add—figuring out how getting married can impact your student loans.
Now that you’ve read the title, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wait. Getting married impacts my student loans?” If you’re enrolled or interested in enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan, it sure can.
The FSA ID is a username and password that students, parents, and borrowers must use to log on to certain U.S. Department of Education websites such as fafsa.gov, StudentAid.gov, and StudentLoans.gov. The FSA ID is a secure way to access and sign important documents without using personally identifiable information.
Log-in options on fafsa.gov
Log-in options on StudentAid.gov
Log-in options on StudentLoans.gov
As with any new process, there are some myths floating around about creating and using an FSA ID. Let’s tackle some of those myths right now…
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) provides tax data that automatically fills in information for part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), as well as the income-driven repayment plan application for federal student loan borrowers.
To protect sensitive taxpayer data, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov will be unavailable until extra security protections can be added. For borrowers who need to complete the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request on StudentLoans.gov, the tool will be available in late-May. The tool will be available to use on the 2018–19 FAFSA form on October 1, 2017.
If you don’t have a copy of your tax return, access the tax software you used to prepare the return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.
If you still can’t access your return, you can get a summary of a previously filed tax return, called a Tax Return Transcript, at irs.gov/transcript.
Here’s what you should know:
1. You can still submit the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov.
You will need to manually provide your 2015 tax information to complete the FAFSA. Do not use your 2016 tax information. For more info: StudentAid.gov/fafsa-changes
If your financial situation has changed since 2015, you should complete the FAFSA using the information it requires (2015 tax info), then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss your circumstances. The financial aid office can make updates to your FAFSA information if appropriate.
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to multiple schools. Now you need to determine which schools are most affordable so you can factor school cost into your decision. If you listed a school on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and have been offered admission by that school, the school’s financial aid office will send you a financial aid offer. The amounts and types of aid you’re offered will likely vary from school to school, so it’s important to compare your financial aid offers. Here are a few tips and resources to make understanding and comparing your financial aid offers easier.
1. Know the different types of aid
The financial aid offer includes the types and amounts of aid you may receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. Types of aid include free money that does not have to be paid back (grants and scholarships), money you borrow and must pay back with interest (loans), and money you can earn working a part-time job to help pay for education expenses (work-study). You may see any combination of these types of aid in your financial aid offer. Learn more about the different types of aid. If you’re curious, you can also learn how schools calculate the amounts of aid they offer you.
So, you’ve completed the 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. It’s time to sit back and wait for your financial aid offers, right? Not quite. In fact, there’s still plenty to do! Here are 8 things you need to do AFTER you submit your application.
1. Find your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
Your EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. If your application is complete, your EFC will display in the upper right-hand corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR). If your application is incomplete, your SAR will not include an EFC, but it will tell you what you need to do to resolve any issues.
To understand how the EFC is used, review the following formula, which is what schools use to determine your federal student aid eligibility and your financial aid offer:
Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial need
Schools then do their best to meet your financial need (not your full cost of attendance), but some schools are able to cover more than others.