What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is an online application that collects personal and financial data that the federal government used to determine your family's ability to pay for college. Filing the FAFSA is the first step to paying for college. The FAFSA allows students to access federal money, like the Pell Grant or Stafford Loan, and state or institutional money. The FAFSA also opens doors to some scholarships. Colleges use the FAFSA information to determine if the student qualifies for state or institutional aid. Students will receive different “aid packages” depending on the school. The FAFSA is based on income eligibility and asks information based on 2016 parent and student taxes. The information you input in the FAFSA is then sent to your prospective colleges to determine your amount of aid.
When do I file the FAFSA?
The FAFSA opens up on October 1, 2017 for the class of 2018. File the FAFSA immediately in order to meet colleges’ financial aid deadlines as early as December 1. The application will ask questions regarding the student’s and the parent(s)’ 2016 taxes to determine the aid amount for the 2018-2019 school year.
How do I file a FAFSA?
First of all, do not file the FAFSA alone. The application is extremely important and should be submitted correctly. Starting in October, there will be FAFSA completion nights and college advising office hours at Bassett High School. Secondly, make sure to go to the correct website. There are illegitimate FAFSA sites out there that will ask the student to pay for the application. The application is 100% free. The correct site is fafsa.gov.
To start filing the FAFSA, the parent and student must first create an FSA I.D. at fsa.ed.gov. This creates a permanent login that will be used each time the student accesses the FAFSA. This password and username also serves as the electronic signature and requires a Social Security Number to create.
How do I receive financial aid?
After submitting the FAFSA, you will receive a preliminary “EFC.” EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. This is a number that indicates approximately how much the student’s family can contribute based on that information provided.
Aid packages or award letters will be sent out to students around March via mail or online student account. Aid packages are delivered with enough time to make a financial decision of where you will go to college. Financial aid packages will lay out the cost of attendance for each school and how much the school can provide based on the FAFSA.
Receiving a financial aid package is entirely based on meeting deadlines. Financial aid deadlines for Virginia schools are as early as December 1, 2017. This is sometimes before the admissions application is due. Make sure to list any school the student might apply to on the FAFSA. Not listing a school on the FAFSA will result in the student receiving no financial aid.
Divorced parents: The student will list the parent who he/she lives with more than half the time. With split or joint custody, just choose the parent who provides majority of the student’s financial support. That parent will create the FSA I.D. and enter his/her tax information. If that parent is remarried, the parent will be required to enter his/her spouse’s information as well. Despite popular belief, the FAFSA does not take into account which parent claims the student on his/her taxes.
Custody vs. Guardianship: According to the FAFSA, “legal custody” does not exist. If a student is in custody of someone other than a biological or stepparent, that student is required to put information on the FAFSA regarding the biological parent(s). If you believe you are in guardianship, you will be required to find court documents stating such. Students who cannot access parental information need to keep trying. The only way a college will not require parental information is if both parents are incarcerated, the student was adopted, there is a documented history of abuse or other extremely limited cases.