If your student is applying to college for the first time, you may be wondering about completing financial aid information. Although the forms become available the beginning of the calendar year, NOW is the time to get your financial house in order so you can apply beginning January 2015. Most families find themselves completing at least one, if not two, financial aid forms for college scholarships. The forms may seem daunting but without them, no aid will be forthcoming.
To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSASM or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you more qualify for their aid.
Why should I fill out the FAFSA?
If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! I’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:
- “My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
- “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
- “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
- “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”
The reality is, EVERYONE should fill out the FAFSA!
When should I fill out the FAFSA?
The FAFSA becomes available in early January each year, and there are different deadlines for different programs.
|Aid Program||Deadline Information|
|Federal Student Aid||For the 2015–16 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. However, there are a few first come, first served federal student aid programs, so be sure to apply as soon as you can.
|State Student Aid||You can find state deadlines at www.fafsa.gov.
|College or Career School Aid||Check the school’s website or contact its financial aid office. School deadlines are usually early in the year (often in February or March).
|Some programs other than government or school aid require that you file the FAFSA. For instance, you can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant—and you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA. If the private scholarship’s application deadline is in early to mid-January, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA before that deadline.|
Do I need to complete the CSS Profile?
Another form many colleges require is a CSS profile. Each individual college has its own requirements, so you need to check with each school on your student’s list to determine what is required. Most colleges post this information on its website’s financial aid page. Research what information you will need to provide so you can comply in a timely manner.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to file the FAFSA, and if required, the CSS profile, as soon as it’s available so you don’t miss out on anything. It is also a good idea to verify with each prospective college what information is required, so your student qualifies for the most aid.
REMEMBER: Your family MUST complete the FAFSA every year your student is in college in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.