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Some information about the FAFSA

The+FAFSA+is+a+source+of+federal+aid+provided+to+prospective+and+current+college+students.
The FAFSA is a source of federal aid provided to prospective and current college students.

The FAFSA is a source of federal aid provided to prospective and current college students.

Courtesy of Wikipedia via Creative Commons

Courtesy of Wikipedia via Creative Commons

The FAFSA is a source of federal aid provided to prospective and current college students.

Monika Juras, Opinions Editor

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On October 1, the FAFSA for the 2018-2019 school year was made available to all current and prospective college students nationwide.

Although many high school students have heard the term “FAFSA” tossed around here and there, an astounding amount of students still don’t completely understand what it actually is—or how critical it is that they fill it out as soon as possible.

This is especially concerning considering that throughout the school year, a majority of seniors oftentimes find themselves tearing their hair out as they frantically search for any sort of scholarships and sources of money to reduce the blow of student loan debt.

However, seniors can now find solace in the fact that they don’t have to completely take on the burden of their college tuition—this is where the FAFSA comes into play.

The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is more than just “free money,” as many usually assume.

More specifically, the FAFSA is a form that can—and should—be filled out annually by college-bound seniors as well as students currently in college. The information students provide through the form is then used to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

This aforementioned financial aid is provided through three different forms: grants, federal loans, and work study.

Pell Grants are the one part of the FAFSA that could be considered “free money,” since they’re federal funded grants that don’t have to be repaid.

However, federal Pell Grants are limited to students who: require financial aid, haven’t yet earned their first bachelor’s degree, or are enrolled in graduate school. Grants are capped at $5,815.

Federal loans (also known as Stafford Loans) are student loans offered at a fixed interest rate of 4.29%, which is much less than the typical rates of private loans. However, there are strict eligibility requirements and borrowing limits on these loans.

Additionally, a student isn’t required to pay the loans off while they’re enrolled in college part-time. If the student graduates, isn’t considered neither a full- or part-time student, or withdraws from the loan, they’ll have a six month grace period before they have to start making payments towards their loans.

Although this is a lot of information, there’s one more critical thing you need to know: federal aid is limited, so fill out the application as soon as possible.”

Stafford Loans are available as subsidized and unsubsidized loans; subsidized loans are offered to students based on demonstrated financial need.

The interest on subsidized loans is covered by the federal government while the student is in college, as well as during the grace period.

Meanwhile, if granted an unsubsidized Stafford Loan, students are responsible for paying off all of the interest that accumulates while they’re enrolled in school.

Lastly, there is federal work study, which allows students to earn financial fund through a part-time employment program.

If deemed eligible, students can join work programs through their college to earn money for tuition and other expenses; students are guaranteed to earn at least the federal minimum wage while employed.

A student’s eligibility for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and federal work study all varies with the information they’ll provide on their FAFSA. This information includes:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and any other records of earned money
  • Your parents’/legal guardians’ federal income tax returns, W-2s, and records of earned money
  • Your bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Your parents’/guardians’ bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • Parents’ records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • A FSA ID
  • Parent’s FSA

The information required varies on whether you’re considered a dependent student or not. 

In addition to personal and financial information, students can list up to ten schools to receive the results of the FAFSA once it is processed. If you want to attend any in-state schools, SELECT THOSE FIRST TO QUALIFY FOR STATE AID!

Upon completing the application, students are provided a Student Aid Report (SAR) which indicates a student’s potential eligibility for different types of financial aid, their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) towards their education, and a summary of the information which was provided in the application.

An electronic version of the SAR is also made available to the colleges the student included on their FAFSA.

Although this may seem intimidating, the information you provided and the colleges you chose aren’t set in stone upon the click of the “submit” button.

You can always go back and change any information you entered (except for your social security number) as well as your list of schools, which is especially helpful if you want to apply to more than 10. After you add or remove any schools and resubmit the form, any new schools you added will be sent a copy of your SAR.

Although this is a lot of information, there’s one more critical thing you need to know: federal aid is limitedso fill out the application as soon as possible.

On that note, take some time to fill out the FAFSA tonight or sometime tomorrow. The sooner you fill it out, the more affordable college will be.

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Palatine High School's student news site.
Some information about the FAFSA