Tips for Applying and Reapplying for FAFSA
by Nicole Leonard | Boston University
The holidays are over, the first part of the school year is complete, and it’s time to once again start thinking about next year’s tuition and financial aid.
The beginning of a new year means parents and students all over the country are focusing on what forms and applications they need to submit in order to renew or apply for 2012-2013 financial aid. For experienced, returning students and their families, this process might be a breeze, but it may seem daunting to those who are new to the game.
Most universities and colleges require and encourage all students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application enables students to be considered for any loans the government can grant them if they are eligible. A lot of schools also use the information provided on the FAFSA to determine grants and aid-based scholarships.
Do not make the mistake of wondering if a student will qualify for federal aid and consequentially not filling out the FAFSA. Many families mistakenly assume they will not get any aid because of large incomes, but loans such as the PLUS loan and unsubsidized Stafford loan can be awarded without need. The worst case is that a student submits the FAFSA and does not qualify to receive aid. Although there are a lot of questions on the form that must be answered, the application is free to fill out and entirely worthwhile.
The FAFSA must be submitted by the student, preferably online, and it includes information about the custodial parent(s). Students can access the online application by going to the federal website and logging in with their specific 4 digit PIN number. The application will later ask for a code number that corresponds to the student’s university or college, so that when it is submitted, the school will be able to pull the application into their system.
Once students and parents receive their 2011 income tax returns, they will be prompted to send these forms to financial aid offices for verification. These forms are required for the university to verify that all the estimated information entered on the FAFSA is valid.
College and university financial aid offices will thoroughly look through the information entered on the FAFSA and determine how much aid they can award the student based on the school’s cost of attendance (COA).
Any federal loans that are given will be in the student’s name; parents can apply for separate loans. To apply for a Pell Grant and other types of need-based aid, students simply have to submit the FAFSA and check off the appropriate boxes.
Deadlines to submit the FAFSA and other forms are different for most schools. Every student and family should be aware of financial aid deadlines within their university or college. Most times these deadlines can be found online under the school’s financial aid website.
Filling out forms and applications for aid can be quick and easy, but sometimes circumstances arise that might require more time. Do not leave financial aid matters until the last minute. The sooner a student submits the forms, the better, since schools will look at forms submitted on or before the deadline first.
Don’t get overwhelmed by applications and deadlines. Once you go through the process, every year after will be like riding a bike.
Access the FAFSA at: www.fafsa.ed.gov
More Questions/Facts about the FAFSA: www.finaid.orgNicole is a sophomore at Boston University, where she is studying journalism and psychology.