The FAFSA form can be a pain to navigate, however it plays an important role in obtaining funding for college.

What exactly is the FAFSA? The FAFSA (also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that college-bound students and their parents must fill out in order to determine their eligibility for federal student financial aid.

What type of Financial Aid can I get? Financial aid can be in the form of a grant, loan, or work study program.  Sometimes colleges will use this to determine if you are eligible for certain “need-based” scholarships based on your family’s current financial situation.

What does the FAFSA application look like? The FAFSA is a rather lengthy questionnaire.  It basically asks a lot of questions about you and your parent’s personal finances.  This form must be filled out annually just in case you or your parents had any significant changes from one year to the next.  An example would be a significant change in income.

Once you complete all the questions, the system will determine what your Expected Family Contribution or EFC.  This is basically just a dollar amount that the system believes your family can afford to pay for college based on all of the information that you entered into the questionnaire.

Some of the factors that are considered with determining your EFC include the following:

  • Family Size
  • Income
  • Number of Children in College
  • Assets (homes, investments, etc.)

Do I have to fill it out? Yes, each school requires that you fill out a FAFSA, even if you plan to pay for your college education in cash.  This is how colleges and many financial aid programs determine students’ financial aid eligibility.  It’s a fair process for all parties.

What do I need to be eligible? These are the requirements in order to be eligible for federal aid:

  • U.S. Citizen
  • Valid SSN
  • High School Diploma (or GED)
  • Must Be Registered for the Service (Males 18-25)
  • Only use Federal Aid for educational purposes
  • Current on all other student loans

What documents do I need?  Here is a list of documents you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA form:

  • Social Security Number. Be sure it is correct!
  • Driver’s License (if any)
  • W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • Student’s Federal Income Tax Returns
  • Parents’ Federal Income Tax Returns
  • Untaxed Income Records (if applicable)
  • Veterans Non-education Benefit Records (if applicable)
  • Child Support Received (if applicable)
  • Worker’s Compensation (if applicable)
  • Current Bank Statements
  • Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
  • Alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

Tips on filling out the FAFSA form. The form is long, but you must fill it out in its entirety.  Please, please, please take your time when fillling out your FAFSA form!  If you make mistakes, then you can slow down the application approval process and even worse, you’ll have to fill it out over and over again until you get it right.  Also, you should be honest.  Don’t over or under inflate income figures or lie about your family size, etc.  Honesty is always the best policy!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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