Families must submit the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for any need-based financial aid from the US Government and colleges. Most colleges and universities also require this form to award any type of merit based aid scholarship money for high GPAs and test scores.
1. JUST DO IT-PLEASE!!! MOST colleges now REQUIRE the FAFSA to receive ANY scholarship or grant money. Even merit scholarships or department specific scholarships (e.g. science/music, etc.) that the student has earned with their outstanding performance in High School will NOT be awarded.
a. DO IT EARLY TOO, but you MUST wait until 1 OCT to complete & try to submit by 15 NOV.
b. Look at college deadlines.
c. Note: Deadline to complete Bright Futures App is Graduation.
d. Again—PLEASE DO IT! Some colleges even award aid to families making up to 250,000 per year.
What to do before 1 OCT.
a. Get a Federal student aid PIN (24 hr wait after you request): www.pin.ed.gov
i. Must have EXACT name on your SSN Card & SSN & Date of birth.
ii. One parent must ALSO get PIN to officially submit FAFSA each year.
iii. These PINs remain SAME forever. SAVE in a folder/file to reference.
b. Gather documents you will need: prior yr Tax info; balance of savings/checking; cash.
c. Can do FAFSA4caster to see what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) may be for first year at www.FAFSA4caster.ed.gov
d. NOTE: You must do a FAFSA EACH year your child is in college.
3. Filling out FAFSA: Open the FAFSA tips page to reference if you have a question at www.studentaid.gov/fafsa/filling-out
a. Open www.fafsa.gov to complete the FAFSA online, which you can send to 10 colleges/universities.
b. If student applies to more than 10 colleges, go back to your FAFSA and delete schools you just sent it to, and insert other schools before resubmitting.
4. After you File FAFSA:
a. Immediately get estimate of aid via the EFC.
b. Several days later you receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).
c. All schools that accept you will then send you a financial aid award-which will be different between schools based on their endowments/etc.
d. VERIFICATION: A portion of all filers are selected for verification (on your SAR, there will be an *asterisk). You will have to send specific info to the school you decide to attend (e.g. 1040). Don’t feel like you did something wrong-it is totally random and some schools require ALL families to verify.
e. Note-you have an option to link your tax form info to your FAFSA and you won’t need to verify-if asked.
f. EACH YEAR your child is in college, after OCT 1, you must re-file the FAFSA. This is MUCH easier as all your personal info is already inserted into the form. It also gives you an opportunity to get credits if another child enters college while your first child is still in college or if your income has changed.
5. FAFSA is NOT CSS: This summary applies to the FAFSA, which MOST colleges/universities use to calculate the family contribution to college costs. However, many of the very selective (and very expensive) schools also require the CSS Profile by specific deadlines. This form is even more in-depth and considers your home equity and retirement accounts when calculating your EFC, which will typically be HIGHER than the FAFSA, meaning you will typically pay more per year at that schoolL