What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." It is a form which must be filled out by anyone hoping to receive financial aid for college.
The FAFSA collects information about student, the student's financial status, and the financial status of his/her parents. This information is processed and used to determine how much money the student or the student's family will be expected to pay for college. The FAFSA is used to determine the amount of money to be awarded by federal loans and grants, as well as any school-specific financial aid.
FAFSA applications are processed by the Office of Federal Student Aid, which is a component of the Department of Higher Education. Each year, over 14 million FAFSA forms are processed by the Office of Federal Student Aid, and roughly $80 billion of financial aid is distributed.
The FAFSA requires some information from the most recent year's tax return, from bank statements, as well as some other documents. Planning ahead, and gathering all the required paperwork and information before beginning the FAFSA form, will save you a lot of stress and frustration. If you have all the necessary documents ready, the FAFSA form only takes about an hour to complete.
The form collects information about the student, as well as his/her finances and dependency status. The form also collects information about the student's parents, and asks for a list of schools which should receive the results of the FAFSA.
The FAFSA can be filled out online at fafsa.ed.gov. Students also have the option of applying through the mail with a paper form. Using the online application is highly encouraged, however, because the site can immediately check for errors in the form, thereby speeding up the process by several weeks. Students don't need to complete the online application in one sitting; they can save their progress and return to it later.
Make sure you know the financial aid deadlines for the schools you've applied to. The federal deadline for the FAFSA form is at the end of June, but most state deadlines are much earlier. It's your responsibility to know when these deadlines are, and to submit your applications on time. It's a good idea to get ready well before the deadline, because any financial aid award you hope to receive depends on the timely completion of the FAFSA form.