How Much Financial Aid Can You Get – What is financial aid? What is the FAFSA? Learn about the different types of aid you can get for college and how to fill out the FAFSA.
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How Much Financial Aid Can You Get
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What is financial aid? Do you need to pay financial aid? And how can you make sure you get enough help for college?
By filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA as it is more commonly known, new and returning students can access a variety of funding sources for college, such as grants, federal work study , and loans.
This guide covers everything you need to know about paying for higher education, with step-by-step instructions on how to get financial aid using the FAFSA.
Your Complete Guide To Fafsa
The FAFSA is used by national, state and local government agencies, as well as universities and private institutions, to award federal and non-federal aid to students. This support includes loans, grants, scholarships, and federal work study.
Over the years, the cost of college has increased significantly. According to the College Board report, the average cost of tuition is $10,560 for public universities in the state and $37,650 for private institutions in 2020-21.
By filing the FAFSA, you can offset some of these costs and avoid incurring a large amount of debt. What’s more, the FAFSA is risk-free: You don’t have to pay a fee to apply and you don’t have to accept any aid awarded to you if you don’t want to.
College financial aid falls into three main categories: federal, state, and private. Within these categories there are five types of award that students can receive.
Undergraduate Prospective Students
Unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid. These awards are generally based on need rather than merit and are allocated by the federal and state governments. Some of the most common grants are the Pell Grant and the TEACH Grant.
Like grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid. These financial donations can be need-based, merit-based, or a combination of both.
While grants tend to offer long-term (often recurring) financial support, scholarships are usually a lump sum awarded in a lump sum.
Beyond the scholarships offered by colleges, some are provided by corporations, private entities or individuals, non-profit organizations, and professional societies and associations. Each scholarship maintains its own eligibility requirements, award amount, and application deadline.
How To Pay For College
Loans are financial awards that must be repaid, usually with interest. Students often take advantage of federal and private loans to help offset the cost of college.
Although all loans serve the same general purpose, student loans differ from personal loans in that they must be used for education-related expenses, such as tuition and school supplies.
Federal work study helps students who demonstrate financial need earn extra money through a part-time job (usually on campus). Examples include working in a campus library, as a research assistant to a professor, and as a tutor.
The money a student earns from federal work study can be used to pay for a range of educational costs, such as tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, computers and technology, and child care.
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Aimed primarily at graduate and postgraduate students, fellowships and assistantships provide participants with a stipend or stipend while they work and/or continue their education.
Many fellowships and assistantships are awarded to doctoral students working on their dissertations in exchange for providing research support and/or teaching services for the college or university.
The main purpose of the FAFSA is to provide federal aid to students who demonstrate financial need. To be eligible for federal FAFSA funds, you must meet the following requirements:
Undocumented students and international students are not eligible to apply for federal aid on the FAFSA. Instead, these students can apply for scholarships through their schools, employers, and/or private organizations.
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Although the FAFSA has no age limit or income limit, these factors can affect your award package because aid is allocated based on financial need. But because the FAFSA is free to fill out, all students should make an effort to submit the FAFSA every year regardless of their income level.
The FAFSA opens each year on October 1. Try to submit your application on or as soon as possible after this date. Students must file a FAFSA each year they are in school to remain eligible for federal aid.
Each FAFSA is available for about a year and a half. For example, the current FAFSA (for aid during the 2022-23 academic year) opened on October 1, 2021, and will remain available federally until June 30, 2023.
However, many schools and states maintain earlier deadlines. So the sooner you can get your application in the better. If you wait too long, the money may run out and you may not receive any help.
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Below, we explain how to fill out the FAFSA each year so you can get college aid.
To fill out the FAFSA, you will need your driver’s license (if you have one) and your Social Security number (or Alien Registration number if you are an eligible citizen).
The Office of Federal Student Aid requires financial documents such as your most recent W-2s and federal tax returns. You must also provide current bank statements; investment records for stocks, bonds, and real estate; and any information about farm or business assets.
In addition, you may need to provide records of untaxed income for things like child support, veterans’ education benefits, and interest income.
Fafsa Updates And College Financial Aid Information
Most students and their families file the FAFSA through the official online portal. After collecting all the necessary materials above, you should create an FSA ID. This username and password combination allows you to provide an electronic signature, access confidential information, use the myStudentAid mobile app, and log in to your federal student aid account.
When you set up your account, be sure to enter your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social Security card. FSA ID automatically fills in some personal information as you complete the FAFSA, preventing common errors.
Once you’ve created your FSA ID, you can start working on the FAFSA. Most applicants complete the FAFSA in about an hour. Independent students who do not need to provide information to parents or guardians can finish in less time.
After logging in, select the academic year in which you filed the FAFSA. Those submitting the FAFSA for another school year may have the option to renew their FAFSA form, saving them time by carrying over their demographic information from the previous year.
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The first four sections of the FAFSA are fairly self-explanatory and only require basic personal information – the financial information section is usually the one that takes the most time.
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When filling out your financial information in the last section of the FAFSA, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import tax information. You then sign the application with the relevant FSA ID(s) and confirm your submission. Please note that some students and their parents or guardians may not be able to use this tool.
When filling out the FAFSA, double check to make sure you avoid common mistakes, such as typing in personal information. You should also make sure you understand the definitions of important terms.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Even if you haven’t filed tax returns yet, you can estimate your income, submit the FAFSA, and update your records after you file your taxes.
Once you have submitted the FAFSA, you can sit back and wait. It is a smart idea at this time to apply for non-federal college awards, such as scholarships.
You can check the status of your application at any time by logging into your FAFSA account. Alternatively, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center toll-free at 1-800-433-3243.
Students can expect to receive their Student Aid Report (SAR) approximately 3-5 days after submitting their FAFSA online.
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This report shows basic information about your federal student aid eligibility, including the final calculation of your estimated family contribution and the Data Release Number, which your school needs to change certain information on your FAFSA.
Spend time making sure your SAR is correct. Your school will use this report to determine what federal and non-federal aid you can receive and may even ask you to verify certain parts of your application.
You will receive financial aid offer letters from your prospective colleges once they determine your financial need and eligibility. Timelines vary by school, but you can usually expect a letter in late March or early April, as May 1 is National College Decision Day.
All awards must be acknowledged in your financial aid offer letter. Prioritize free money (ie, scholarships and grants) and any work study grants. If you need to borrow money, choose federal loans first since then
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