If you're a student looking for potential college aid, or a current student looking for loans and grants, the 2012-2013 FAFSA is now available online. If you've never done it before, it is similar to filling out a tax return, but also requests a lot of information from your parents as well.
What is the FAFSA
The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is required to be filed if you want to qualify for financial aid, such as grants, work-study, and federal student loans.
The FAFSA is required to be completed every year a student is planning on getting financial aid – even federal student loans. It is highly recommended that a student fills it out every year, regardless of the intention to get student loans, to show a continuity in case loans will be pursued in the future, such as in grad school.
How To Qualify For Aid
A common myth is that individuals can only qualify for aid if their income (or parent's income) allows it. While that is generally true, there are types of aid available to just about every student.
To be eligible for federal aid programs, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Register for the Selective Service (if you're male and haven't already)
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Show you're qualified for a post-secondary education (grad school)
What Can a FAFSA Get You
By filling out the FAFSA, it is the first step to become eligible for student aid programs. There are three main buckets of programs available: grants, work-study, and student loans.
The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant, which gives you$5,550 towards your undergraduate degree. However, there are other federal grants available, including a grant for veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and a grant for individuals looking to become elementary or secondary school teachers.
Some schools require you to fill out the FAFSA even for non-federal grants, so check with the organization offering the grant to find out.
Federal Work Study
Federal Work Study is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students with part-time jobs to earn money and help pay for education expenses. Most work-study jobs are either at the school or university at which you attend, or a private non-profit organization or public agency. All work performed in work-study jobs must benefit the public interest.
Finally, you must fill out a FAFSA to qualify for any type of federal student loan program. I go into great depths on student loan debt in my eBook, which I highly recommend for more information on getting a student loan.
No matter what type of program you are looking for to pay for school, filling out the FAFSA is a must. Furthermore, the sooner you do it, the quicker you may qualify for programs that could have limited budgets. So, if you are looking for student aid, fill out your FAFSA today!