FAFSA: The Gateway to Financial Aid for Scholarships and Loans
If you have chosen to pursue a university or college degree, you will quickly discover that your road to financial aid is locked securely behind a gate called FAFSA. This article will discuss what the FAFSA is and why it determines so much regarding your eligibility for financial aid.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was created by the Department of Education to determine how much federal aid a tertiary level student may be eligible to receive. All universities and colleges that receive federal funding use the FAFSA and the form is readily available on campus, or can be completed by visiting www.Fafsa.gov.
If you are intending on beginning your college or university career in January, you most likely already have the most important piece of the puzzle in place: the income figures from your parents’ 2012 IRS Tax filing(s) (or your 2012 tax filing if you are an independent adult).
If you intend to begin college or university for the 2013-2014 academic year, you will need to complete your 2012 taxes as quickly as possible to determine the 2012 salary figures necessary to complete the FAFSA. Completing the FAFSA early often increases the amount of financial aid awarded since universities generally distribute federally subsidized loans and scholarships on a first come, first served basis.
Once you have the necessary income figures available, you can fill out the FAFSA form online or complete it in printed form and submit it for consideration. The completed FAFSA will be used to determine an “Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)” that in turn will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. When it comes to determining your educational future, the FAFSA is probably the most important form you will ever fill out!
The EFC is determined by a host of factors including: family size, income levels, independent status and the estimated costs of attendance at a university. Additional factors may also influence the outcome such as whether or not you have any dependents or if you happen to serve in the active military.
In spite of its reputation, the FAFSA process is quite straight forward. The Department of Education uses IRS figures to determine the level of financial need each student presents based on the income earned. The higher the income, the lower the amount of financial assistance a student can expect to receive. The FAFSA form, you will also determine the amount of PELL grants or loans for which you may qualify.
It is important to remember that these figures are estimates and that the actual financial aid you receive will be determined by the college or university you attend. Be sure that your potential school(s) financial aid office knows that your FAFSA has been filed so they can begin to verify your financial eligibility as quickly as possible.
One thing is sure, when it comes to your future education expenses, FAFSA is the key to unlock the grants, scholarships and loans you will need to finish well! Take the time now to understand and master the process and you will reap the benefits later!
Find out more about debt reduction before you enter college.
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