Filling out your FAFSA? Have a few questions?

Have you filled out your FAFSA yet? If you don't know what that means, or have questions about the who, what, where, when, why and how of the application, then read on!

The FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is your ticket to government grants (like the pell grant), direct student loans (subsidized and unsubsidized), work study, and some state financial aid.

You may have heard of it before. If you've never filled one out, not to worry.

I will give you some good ideas of what to expect and some other things that you need to know to receive the financial aid benefits that you are looking for.

Why do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

If you don't fill out the application, even if you think will won't qualify for financial aid, you may be leaving money on the table that would otherwise be available to you.

The FAFSA opens the door to government grants (that you don't have to pay back--FREE MONEY) and federal student loans (you do have to pay these back, but they are low interest and payment doesn't start until after you graduate as long as you are registered at a minimum of half-time status).

It also opens the door to work study (a type of financial aid that you receive for working, usually in a position on the campus) and some state financial aid options.

To know all of the financial aid benefits associated with the FAFSA, you should visit your financial aid office on campus. The clerks and counselors there will have all the information you need.

You might be saying to yourself, "But I won't qualify for financial aid."

Relax! You never know unless you ASK!

Ask to get what you want

There are some qualifications for Pell grants and other financial aid.

Financial need (which will be shown in your FAFSA), enrollment in school (your half-time, part-time, or full-time status), and having a high school diploma are just a few.

Don't let the thought that you won't qualify for anything deter you.

Even if you just qualify for student loans, it's alright! You asked! You can accept those student loans ( just check to see if they are subsidized or unsubsidized before you do) or you can try again next year!

Don't take it personally if you don't get any Pell grants. There are a lot of things that factor into it, some of which are out of your control.

Since a lot of things can change in one year, try applying for grants again next year with the FAFSA. Maybe you'll be eligible in another year.

I remember that I wasn't eligible for Pell grants until I moved out of my parent's house. I then became, at least what the government considered, an independent student.

Of course expected family contribution continued to make an impact. But, not too much because my parents were only helping me on an "as needed" basis.

Getting married and my wife going to school increased our financial aid need because both of us were enrolled and providing for ourselves. All of these changes happened within just a few months time.

It's a good thing that we filled out the FAFSA again after having been previously denied financial aid the year before.

When should I fill out the free application for federal student aid?

Since most financial aid offices work on a first come, first serve basis, you need to start filling out your FAFSA ASAP!

Any time after January 1 you need to fill out another FAFSA if you are going to receive any financial aid for the next school year (yes, you do have to fill out the application every year).

paper application

Something that you will need to wait for is the filing of your tax return. There are specific numbers on your tax return that need to be reported when you are seeking financial aid.

These number help those who disburse the financial aid to determine who

has the greatest financial need.

So, you will probably have to wait til the end of January/ beginning of February until you can finish your FAFSA. But, this doesn't mean that you can't get started on it.

If you want, you can actually print out a paper copy of the application and start filling it out a head of time so that when you get all of your information together then you just have to plug in the remaining info.

Luck favors those who are prepared (not to mention that you'll be less stressed because you will have it done and submitted at the earliest time possible). Remember, the earlier you can submit the application, the better.

How do I fill out the FAFSA?

When it comes to filling out the application, you have two options: paper or online. I personally have never filled out a paper application because it is SO much easier to do it online.

Save yourself the time and fill out the application online.

start button
The website address is When you get there, look for a "Start Here" button, or a similar button. Then, just follow the instructions!

Make sure that you do not end up on a .com or .org website. You will probably end up paying to submit your fafsa at a website like this. It is a FREE application for federal student aid. Don't pay someone else to do it.

You will be filling out a new application every year. Something that you need to know if you are filling out your application online is your federal student aid PIN.

You can get your PIN at You can apply for a pin, check the status of your pin, change your pin, request a duplicate, and a few other things.

On the application, you just need your pin when you are asked for it. So, when you get it, write it down and have it next to you as you fill out your fafsa.

Make sure to have your financial information ready. Have these things with you when you fill out your application:

-Tax Return

-Bank Account balances

-Assets and Investments information

-Information from other income or finances

Then, just follow the steps through the end of the application.

If you run into a bump on the process, use the different contact methods to get help. has LIVE online chat, email, or you can call them.

I would probably use LIVE chat first and call them second.

I don't think that I would ever email them with a question because it may take some time before I get an answer. So, try the other methods first.

Possible Problems You Might Encounter

You might run into some hang ups as you fill out the fafsa.

If you are not sure which school you are attending yet, don't worry. You have the option of having the student aid report(SAR) sent to multiple schools.

The SAR is the report that is sent to the university or school you want to attend to tell the school how much financial aid you qualify for.

When you are asked which school you want the SAR sent to, just select each school you are looking into attending, if you haven't decided yet.

The expected family income might be an item of concern to you. Don't sweat it though. It is what it is.

Talk with your parents and/ or family members who may be helping you pay for college and decide what you can expect as far as financial help from family.

FYI, don't lie about the EFC. It isn't worth the trouble (fines and possible imprisonment) just to "qualify" for financial aid.

Another thing that you need to be aware of is any deadlines that your school or state has for financial information.

You can look up the deadlines by state, any deadlines you need to be aware of. Mind the deadlines though! Don't let them pass you by.

Online Application

If you are planning on attending a private school, you might be required to fill out another application or profile. Double check with your school's financial aid office to find out their specific requirements.

In conclusion...

When filling out the FAFSA, or any application for that matter, it is really important to remember two things:

1) Get it completed and submitted as soon as possible


2) Mind the due dates associated with the application

Don't wait until the last minute to get your application done. The funds go on a first come, first serve basis. If you wait, you might miss out.

Good Luck!

Finished with the FAFSA and want more information on financial aid?

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