College is expensive. Many of us aren’t sure how we will pay for tuition and need help finding ways of how to cover expenses. If you are going to college soon and you will need financial aid, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). Federal Student Aid is a division of the U.S. Department of Education which provides more than $120 billion in financial aid to students every year.
How do I apply?
The federal application for the next school year starts accepting applications on October 1, 2017. The fastest way to apply is online, but you may also print the form to fill it out and mail in. The FAFSA is the application form that Federal Student Aid uses to determine if you or your student is eligible for any financial aid. It covers applying for federal grants, scholarships, work-study programs and student loans. It will also determine your or your student’s entitlements to your chosen school’s private grants and scholarships.
Federal Student Aid recommends using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to fill out the financial part of the application. It will shift all your data directly into your application in a few steps. It’s the easiest way to give FAFSA access your financial information and complete the application. Universities also use information in your FAFSA to determine what local financial aid is available. Federal Student Aid will determine your eligibility for financial aid and automatically forward your information to the colleges of your choice. You can choose up to ten schools on the online application and four on the paper application.
Types of financial aid
Grants and scholarships are awards that do not have to be paid back. Federal grants like the Pell Grant are based on financial need. The current annual Pell Grant amount is $5,920. Pell Grants are given for a maximum of 12 semesters for undergraduate students. More grants and scholarships are available through your school’s financial aid office, such as state grants and private scholarships. There are both need based and merit scholarships. Student loans do have to be paid back in monthly installments starting six months after graduation or leaving school.
When do I receive the money?
Just before or soon after the semester starts, your financial aid will be paid directly to the university for tuition and fees. The university then pays you any remaining aid for expenses. Typically, the funds are disbursed through direct deposit to your bank account, a school issued debit card or by a check mailed to you depending on the school. Disbursements are made every semester.
When is the FAFSA deadline?
The FAFSA opens up October 1, 2017 and the deadline for submission is June 30, 2018. If you are mailing it, it is best to mail it several weeks prior to the deadline, if not sooner. It is recommended that you apply as soon as possible to ensure that your financial aid package is ready to go once classes start. You should also check with your intended university to see about private and local financial aid. The financial aid office will have information about need-based and competitive grants and scholarships but they usually have strict deadlines so check early. You can learn more about the FAFSA here. Fill out your FAFSA on October 1 and contact your intended colleges right away to find out about your school’s grants and local scholarships.
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