Follow These 3 Steps When Applying For Financial Aid

All college-bound students are advised to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as possible.

However, as convenient as it is nowadays to fill out FASFA online, there are a number of other less advertised and fairly inconvenient steps in the process.

Here are some parts of the filing process that you should be prepared to deal with prior to and after January 1st, so you can get your FAFSA form in for the 2012-2013 school year and receive your aid as efficiently as possible.

  • Tax Information and Signing

You’re going to need both the parent’s and the student’s previous year’s federal income tax return, social security numbers, and an electronic PIN signature to get through your FASFA.

Now, I don’t know about your family, but that’s not a piece of paper just hanging up on the fridge.

Start locating and getting it together now – especially while everyone has downtime over the holidays. Plus, in order to present a valid electronic signature on the electronic FAFSA, you must apply for a Federal Student Aid PIN, another whole process in itself.

  • Additional Forms

Even after you’re done submitting the FAFSA, it’ll take a couple weeks for the selected school to receive and process it. Next, depending on your college’s own registrar protocols, there will be certain verification forms needed to complete the entire process and determine what the state will be able to provide in terms of financial aid.

For instance, The University of Iowa requires an Iowa Verification Form (IVF) and copies of both the student and the parent’s tax returns before financial aid can be awarded. Both the parents and the student must also sign the IVF and tax returns.

Then, the information must be mailed or personally handed in to the university registrar’s office. If you live out of state, this means an additional 2-4 weeks at least until you receive your financial aid award.

Plan ahead.

  • Retrieving Your Aid

Alas, now that that headache is over, lets start a new one. Your reward will look something like this

You’ll be either awarded subsidized direct loans, grants, scholarships, or work-study options based on your established financial need as determined by your cost of attendance and Expected Family Contribution.

As far as loans go, there are multiple types including Stafford and PLUS parent loans, but all require a Master Promissory Note (MPN) to be filed initially that legally binds you to pay your loan back.

In addition, an online Entrance Counseling course must be taken, which takes about a half hour, and both documents need to be sent to the chosen school in order for the aid to be disbursed.

Moreover, if you are married, divorced, enlisted, or have other outstanding special circumstances, this will all get a bit more difficult.

Be ready to deal with all this on top of all the other stressful facets that factor into the college process.

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Lawrence Mack

Lawrence Mack

Lawrence Mack is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in English. When he’s not exercising, eating, reading, writing short stories, or scouring the web, Lawrence is contributing to other blogs. An avid Harry Potter fan, self-proclaimed StumbleUpon and YouTube addict, and underrated when it comes to taking naps, Lawrence is looking forward to studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece over the Spring Semester of 2012.