College - bound high school seniors are facing a deadline they may not know about: the FAFSA application. It’s easy to understand how students can overlook it with all their high school work and graduation requirements on their minds. But, failing to turn the form in can make them ineligible for college financial aid next year. This article will teach high school seniors basic facts and tips to make filling out their FAFSA easy!
1. What Does the FAFSA Determine? The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines you/ your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) to your college education. In other words, how much college tuition and room and board fees you/ your family can afford to pay and still maintain their current standard of living. In some cases, the Student Aid Report (or “SAR”) you receive will state that you/ your family’s EFC is $0. This simply means you will probably be eligible for more financial aid. It does not mean that you are eligible for “$0 financial aid”!
2. FAFSA deadline. One thing you’ll learn about financial aid forms is that the deadlines are set in stone! Your college’s financial aid office won’t be able to help you if you miss the deadline. In most cases, you won’t be eligible for state education grants if your FAFSA is late. In order to receive any state financial aid in Indiana, your FAFSA must be submitted by midnight, March 10th, 2012. (Visit this website to find your state’s FAFSA deadline: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm.) In order to receive federal financial aid, including student loans, your FAFSA must be submitted by midnight, June 30, 2013 (central time).
3. What Forms Will I Need? Gathering the forms you’ll need before you start your FAFSA will make it go much faster. If you are a dependent student, (if your parents claim you on their tax returns, which they probably do) you will need their help completing your FAFSA. They will need to enter their tax return information for last year. You’ll also need your social security number, your driver’s license number, and your W-2 forms if you worked in 2012. Collect these forms before you sit down to complete your FAFSA. If your parents haven’t done their taxes by the deadline, they can use an estimated tax return and correct it later.
4. Complete the electronic FAFSA. I recommend completing your FAFSA electronically instead of mailing in a paper form. This saves you the trouble of worrying about getting it in the mail on time or whether it got there or not. You can fill out your FAFSA at this website: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm.
5. How can I Get the Most Financial Aid? Before you click the “send” button, give your FAFSA one last check. If you make mistakes, it can cause your form to be returned to you for corrections. It can also make you ineligible for financial aid you would have qualified for otherwise. Make sure your form is correct before submitting it.
Summary: High school seniors need to remember an important deadline: the application deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). (Visit the website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm for a list of each state’s FAFSA deadline.) The FAFSA determines the student’s “Expected Financial Contribution”, which is used to decide how much state and federal financial aid eligibility. Students should ensure their FAFSA is completed by the deadline to be eligible for both state and federal financial aid. Collecting social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and tax forms before sitting down to complete the form will save time. Students should consider completing an electronic FAFSA instead of the paper version to make submission easier. Make sure to review the FAFSA carefully before turning it in to avoid mistakes, which can result in the form being returned for correction and/ or missing financial aid you would be eligible for otherwise.
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