financial aid funding aid programs

Federal Student Aid for college (FAFSA) what you need to know

The U.S. Department of Education awarded about $112 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds in fiscal year 2021, according to the most recent Federal Student Aid annual report. Those federal funds will assist roughly 10.1 million students in completing their education.

When it comes to filing the FAFSA, many families choose not to do so thinking that the process is too time-consuming or difficult. Don’t let that keep you from getting financial assistance for college tuition.

Here are a few answers to common questions about the FAFSA, including what it is, what you need and how to do:

What Is The FAFSA?

“The FAFSA is the application that is required to be used by all schools in awarding federal student aid,” says Brad Barnett, associate vice president for access and enrollment management and director of financial aid at James Madison University in Virginia. “So if you want federal loans, federal grants, federal work-study, you have to do the FAFSA.”

Who needs to complete it?

In general, any student who is a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen who is interested in exploring the opportunity for need-based aid.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Federal Student Aid?

U.S. citizens, nationals, legal permanent residents and individuals who have an Arrival-Departure Record from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services producing certain designations, including refugees, are eligible to apply for federal student aid. Students need to be enrolled in a Title IV-eligible program, meaning one that can receive federal financial aid funds, to qualify.

I say “student” because they are the primary filers. No doubt it will be the parent(s) who does most of the work completing it, but the student must get their own FSA ID to start the process. The FSA ID is the electronic signature and is used to sign the form.  If a parent wants to sign or needs to do so (ie: if the student is under 18), they need to get their own FSA ID.  Here is a video or two on how to do that and a pdf of instructions.

federal student aid documents

What’s an FSA ID and how to create it

The first step, before filling out the FAFSA, is to create an FSA ID, which serves as an electronic signature. Parents and students can find a link to obtain an FSA ID through the Federal Student Aid website. To create a unique ID, applicants will need their Social Security number, date of birth and their name as it appears on official documents.

The FSA ID is required in order to sign the FAFSA online. While a student or parent can instantly use the FSA ID to sign a first-time FAFSA application, other activities, like a FAFSA renewal, cannot be completed until the Social Security Administration verifies the data submitted to create the ID, which takes an average of one to three days.

What Info Do I Need To Apply For The FAFSA?

fafsa free application process

How Long Does The FAFSA Application Process Take?

It takes a few days between applying for the FSA ID and getting it so plan for that based on when you want to complete the form.

Consider Filling Out The FAFSA Online For The Upcoming School Year. Filling out the FAFSA can be a confusing, complex process for families. The paper version of the FAFSA has more than 100 questions – that’s nearly three times as long as the standard federal income tax form. The online FAFSA, however, uses skip-logic technology to present applicants with relevant questions.

Why You Should Fill Out The FAFSA For The Upcoming School Year?

The short answer is to be eligible for financial aid. Here are a few other reasons:

  • It is a way for a student to be considered for federal student loans or federal work study.
  • In the event a family’s financial situation changes, it’s good to have a form in the system that you can easily update

 When is The FAFSA Application Due?

In general, the earlier the better. Specifically, it needs to be completed by the deadline set by the college. Most of the deadlines are the same as the application submit date, so if you plan on submitting the FAFSA on or before November 1st, you’re in good shape.

How Do I figure Out The FAFSA Process?

The FAFSA website is easier to use than one would think. The form can be found here and this is where you go to create an FSA ID. Many universities and non-profit organizations put out “how to” videos that are easy to find. Just go on YouTube and google “2022 How to complete the FAFSA”. That’s how I found this.

I also wrote a couple of blogs with information about the process. Keep in mind that it’s a wonderful learning experience for your child to work through this process along with you. 

One last thing – some of the colleges require the CSS Profile to be filed in addition to the FAFSA. This is the website for information. For a list of colleges that require it, check here.

Similar Posts