FAFSA 101

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a topic that is relevant to many students across America.

If you have considered attending a college or university and you are not receiving a full-ride scholarship, you may be eligible for financial aid from the government. Tuition costs rise every year, due to the changing economy and profit margins for these giant education providers. However, there are steps that you can take in order to limit the amount that you need to pay each semester.

Fulfilling all of the proper FAFSA requirements is a relatively straightforward task, but it does require a good amount of planning and preparation. However, even if you believe that you will not be eligible for FAFSA, it is still often a good idea to learn how to complete your FAFSA application. While you may not be eligible for all forms of financial aid, there may be a few available to you.

What is FAFSA?

Since FAFSA financial aid involves a long application process, many students fail to submit their form. Instead of shying away from it, more students and their parents should take a closer look at what the FAFSA is in order to understand all of the amazing deals that it can provide. Some of the different types of FAFSA coverages include:

  • Grants, which are either one-time or recurring, and act as financial gifts for students who qualify based on some kind of academic, social or service-based merit.
  • Loans, which are large sums of money that are given to students in order to immediately pay their tuition, but are slowly paid back with interest over time.
  • Work-study programs, which are opportunities for students to work part-time in order to directly impact their tuition costs.

FAFSA recipients can also get private loans and grants from banks or their university in order to supplement this aid, as well as the potential for scholarships that can stack alongside existing financial aid coverage. Knowing which types of aid are right for your needs and how to balance different kinds of aid with your overall cost of tuition can be tricky.

However, a good general rule of thumb is that the more grants, scholarships and other “free” financial aid that you get, the sooner you will be debt-free after college. Loans can be a great temporary measure to take, but be sure to do some research on potential loans to make sure that they are fair and repayable.

How much aid can I get through FAFSA?

Your FAFSA award amount is also an interesting topic, because it will invariably be less than your overall college costs. Very few students are offered a full ride through college, and that is especially the case if you do not have any scholarships to go alongside your financial aid. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead by estimating how much federal aid you will receive and how much you may be required to cover out-of-pocket.

You may be able to get financial aid amounts through FAFSA up to a certain point, based on your household income level, which goes into a factor called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is a number that indicates how much money your household will be able to put towards your college tuition costs.

Related Article: Receiving Your Federal Student Aid

When compared to your Cost of Attendance (COA) for the college or university of your choice, this EFC will be able to tell you how much of your college costs will need to be covered by a combination of your FAFSA benefits, scholarships, supplemental loans and personal funds. You can learn more about the amount of money that you can expect from FAFSA by inputting your financial information into one of the many online calculators that exist through the ED and elsewhere.

Who can qualify for FAFSA?

Determining who qualifies for FAFSA in America is another complex issue, simply because of how many details and exceptions there are to the ED’s rules. FAFSA was designed to be as applicable to as many students as possible in order to not discriminate against those who legitimately need help paying for their education. There are several eligibility requirements for student aid applicants must meet. In this regard, in order to qualify for this financial aid, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent legal resident, refugee or any other legally present person with the required paperwork.
  • Be able to prove your FAFSA income requirements by informing the ED of you and your parents’ annual income, the value of your assets and any additional financial aid that you are receiving.
  • Have a high school diploma, GED, home schooling certificate or an appropriate Ability to Benefit exam.
  • Maintain a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale in college, not fail more than a third of your required classes and be on the right track to graduate in 6 years at the most.

There are also other requirements that can allow you to qualify for this aid, depending on your specific identifying characteristics.

What are special FAFSA groups?

Finally, there are some FAFSA eligibility groups that have unique rules and guidelines all to themselves. One such category of FAFSA-eligible non-citizen groups includes DACA recipients, as well as many other types of non-citizen groups. While many of these people can get FAFSA if they are legally present in the country, groups such as DACA recipients can only get private or school-specific aid unless they reside in a few specific states.

Individuals who are looking to go to a graduate or professional school may also experience varying requirements to get financial aid. Graduate school FAFSA is more or less the same as the traditional program, but there may be fewer opportunities available to graduate students, and they will often be required to pay off loans under a higher interest rate.

Learning about FAFSA parent information can be useful for parents with college-aged dependents to help their child in the process of applying for financial aid. There are hundreds of different FAFSA coverage options available for students across the country, but learning more about them and applying for them can take some time and effort. If you are a parent or student and are hoping to get FAFSA in order to protect your finances in advance of tuition costs, doing the right preparation for your application is the best way to do so.

Related Article: FAFSA Tax Info Requirements

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