You can apply for financial aid for the 2021 – 2022 academic year now! It might be hard to believe but the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available on Oct 1st, 2020 and can be submitted any time before the end of the award year. The award year officially runs from July 1st, 2021 – June 30th, 2022. The FAFSA can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Read on for the key tips for getting financial aid.
Don’t be afraid to complete the FAFSA even if you think you won’t qualify for much aid
The FAFSA is your all access pass to financial aid. Completing the FAFSA is the only way to access federal student aid including federal student loans, work study, and many sate funded scholarships and grants. Eligibility for some types of federal aid, like unsubsidized student loans, isn’t based on financial need. Many colleges use FAFSA information to determine a student’s eligibility for aid from their state or school funds.
Get a jump on completing the FAFSA early
Don’t wait to complete the FAFSA. Financial information is based on your 2019 income tax filing and can be automatically added to the application by the IRS, saving you time. Many schools use this application to search for scholarships and grants which have earlier deadlines than student loans. The sooner you apply, the more information you will have about your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). That gives you more time to plan and choose the best college based on financial and academic information.
Dust off the documentation you’ll need
- Social Security number, for you and your parents if you’re dependent
- Your driver’s license number if you have one
- Federal tax information for yourself and your parents if you’re dependent
- Information on cash assets like checking and savings account balances
Create your FSA ID
This is a username and password you create to give you access to online filing and updates/corrections of your FAFSA. Online completion is the fastest way to sign and submit your FAFSA. Your FSA ID also enables you to prefill applications for financial aid from previous FAFSA’s.
List any school you’re considering attending
You will need to list at least one college/career school to submit your application. You can list up to 10 schools in your FAFSA. Your financial aid can vary, especially if you’re applying to out of state schools. There’s no penalty for listing multiple schools so be sure to list any you’re seriously considering.
Enlist the help of your parents if you’re a dependent
Dependent students will need to supply the financial information of their parent(s). Questions on the FAFSA will help determine if you’re dependent or independent. You’ll be supplying information from tax forms and checking and savings account balances. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, you can pull the information over electronically from the IRS.
If your family’s financial situation has changed dramatically since filing taxes, answer the required questions and submit the form, then contact the school you plan to attend and discuss your situation with the financial aid office.
Look for additional scholarships to round out your financial aid
Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college since you don’t have to repay them when you graduate. Spend time searching and applying for as many scholarships as you can. One easy way is to use a free searchable database to find potential scholarships. When you find some you could qualify for be sure to read the application instructions carefully and complete all the steps. It can be time consuming but it’s worth it. If you spend 10 hours applying for many scholarships and are awarded even one for $1,000; you just made $100/hour tax free. That definitely beats most jobs!
Here are two free scholarship search tools:
Additional financial aid resources