If you have started the process of researching colleges and universities, as well as financial aid options, more than likely you have heard or seen the acronym FAFSA. Initially, this may not seem like a big deal but as you are about to discover, the equation behind those five letters is extremely important to going to college and earning a degree. Most people depend on some type of financial assistance, whether in the form of federal grant programs, scholarships, loans, gift money, or something else and for many of these options, FAFSA plays a key role.
For starters, this acronym stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, which is connected to the United States Department of Education. Although we will go into more detail regarding the factors behind FAFSA but in general terms, this document is completed by you as the student or your parents to help determine if low interest funding would be available whether as a federal student loan, scholarship, grant, or even work study program.
Once you know the college or university where you will attend school and estimated have been identified pertaining to the cost of tuition, textbooks, lab time, room, board, and other expenses, the next step would be to find some type of financial assistance. Using the FAFSA application form, specific factors would be used to help uncover the amount of financial aid needed, followed by the best type of aid for your specific situation. With this, the formula used would identify the amount of personal money that you and/or your parents could afford to pay toward college, as well as other options for assistance.
One important thing to remember when it comes to the FAFSA application is that you want to get it completed and filed as quickly as possible. Once submitted, people with the federal government, as well as representatives from the college or university you plan to attend would conduct an assessment, which takes a little bit of time. Considering that you would be somewhat in competition for the various forms of financial aid, the sooner this document is processed the more opportunities you would have for funding, and in some cases, more money would be available.
Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes students make is immediately applying for student loans when millions and millions of “free” money is available through scholarships and grants. As the student, it would be to your advantage to sit down with your parents when completing the FAFSA application simply because much of the required information would come from them, such as personal financials. That way, you can get the document finished and ready for submittal in one sitting rather than experiencing delays in tracking down information that would slow the process down.
After submitting the FAFSA document, you would receive a report known as a SAR, which stands for “Student Aid Report.” Using the financial information provided by you and your parents, as well as other mandated information, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would be reviewed and the SAR compiled. Within the Student Air Report would be valuable information outlining the exact type of financial aid that would be available to you. If upon receiving the SAR you find a statement to the effect that the information provided on the FAFSA was incorrect, you and your parents would need to go back over every question to make changes.
Obviously, omitting information or even a small mistake would delay the process of assessment and ultimately, receipt of financial aid so it is imperative that this document be completed fully and correctly the first time. One piece of information that many students fail to provide on the FAFSA document is the coordinating code for the chosen college or university. This code can be obtained simply by speaking to someone in the school’s financial aid office. While the entire process of dealing with the Free Application for Student Aid is not complicated, it does take a little time and attention to detail.
With the SAR in hand, you would have a summary of the amount of financial aid coming from you and/or your parents, followed by the amount of money still needed and viable options for federal assistance so you can achieve your goal of earning a college degree. Remember, receiving financial aid is nothing to be ashamed of. Every year, millions of people enter college or pursue another year toward a chosen field because of federal money.