It’s January. The holidays are over, people are working on (or already breaking) their new year’s resolutions… and it’s time to file the FAFSA. Here are a few must-know facts and tips:
• The FAFSA is the first step towards qualifying for federal and state financial aid (grants, student loans, work study, etc). Many universities also require that you file it in order to determine your eligibility for their own internal financial aid (scholarships, grants, etc).
• You must file a FAFSA each year, with current financial information. Have your tax information ready.
• In order to qualify for federal aid, you must be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen. Certain other restrictions apply.
• If you’re an international student—and not FAFSA eligible—your university’s financial aid office may have a financial statement you can submit in order to establish your financial need.
• Both undergraduates and graduate students should file the FAFSA.
• If you’re an undergrad, you will most likely need to provide your family’s financial information. But graduate and professional students are most often considered “independent” for financial aid purposes.
• Know your deadlines! The application is available each January at fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA deadline is in June, but states have individual deadlines as early as February and March. Also be sure that you check the deadlines posted by your university or any scholarship programs you’re applying for—some of them have early deadlines!
• Many private scholarship programs require the FAFSA as a way to establish your financial aid eligibility.
• Don’t assume that you will not qualify for aid! The only way to access federal student aid—including federal student loans— is with this application.
• The FAFSA is a free application. There are some services that will charge you for assistance with the form, but it’s a straightforward process that you can complete yourself for free. The Department of Ed has a guide to help you.
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