Completing the FAFSA is the first step in the college financial aid process. The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available to families October 1st each year. You will use your 2016 tax returns. Remember, the FAFSA is FREE! Do not ever use a website that is asking for payment to submit the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is used to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a postsecondary institution. This is commonly referred to as EFC (Estimated Family Contribution). This form is required for any student seeking federal aid.
Federal student aid is awarded in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds. Grants are typically awarded on the basis of need and generally do not have to be repaid. Grants are offered at the Federal and State level. Although more than 3,400 colleges and universities across the country take part in the Federal Work-Study Program, some schools award positions based on the date that students complete the FAFSA. This is a strong reason to file your FAFSA as soon as possible each year. Here is a helpful article on the Federal Work-Study Program. Many colleges require students receiving any kind of scholarship funds to complete a FAFSA. Additionally, some families complete a FAFSA in order to get access to unsubsidized federal loan funds that are not income dependent.
When completing the FAFSA, you will identify colleges to receive your FAFSA report. You may submit the FAFSA to a college even if your child hasn't yet submitted his/her application for admission to the school. After filing the FAFSA, if you want your FAFSA information sent to more colleges than what you originally listed, go back to www.fafsa.gov and add additional colleges as a correction. You can have up to 10 colleges listed on your FAFSA to receive your report. Expect to receive financial aid information from colleges in the spring.
To determine your approximate financial aid package, use FAFSA4caster. It is a free financial aid calculator that gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.
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