Want to attend college but need some financial support?
Make sure you apply for the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as early as possible during the calendar year that you plan to start school. If you’re unsure how the FAFSA can help you, here’s a brief overview:
Why the FAFSA matters
Completing the FAFSA form is the key to learning about the federal financial aid programs in which you’re eligible, as well as the maximum dollar amount of funds you can receive.
The details you provide when you fill out the FAFSA will be used to determine your estimated family contribution (EFC). The EFC is the magic number that determines how much money is available to you and under which programs. Individuals with the lowest EFCs may qualify for Pell Grants and the most favorable student loan programs. Those with higher EFCs are still likely to qualify for federal financial aid, but will probably be eligible to participate in fewer programs.
Even if you don’t know where you plan to go to school yet, you should fill out your FAFSA online as soon as possible. In order to complete the document, you’ll need your taxes or W-2 and 1099 income forms from the prior year, as well as those of your parents.
How it works
When you fill out your FAFSA, you can specify that the report be sent to one or more schools of your choice. When each school receives the required documentation, a financial aid representative will create an award letter detailing your exact eligibility and unmet obligations, if any, at his or her institution. This information can help you decide which schools you can afford to attend.