Did you know you can complete, sign and submit your FAFSA using a tablet or smart phone?
The myStudentAid mobile app was first released in 2018 by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. This made it possible to access your FAFSA form using the app or your mobile browser. In December 2020, an updated version was released, offering a variety of new tools provided by FSA. The app now offers a more user-friendly design, as well as a Financial Aid Summary that allows you to keep track of your student loan and grant history. It also offers the ability for borrowers to track their loan repayment progress.
To access this tool, students, parents and borrowers will need to download FSA’s myStudentAid app. From there you can set up your FSA ID, or use your current ID to complete and submit your FAFSA as well as take advantage of these new features. Want to know more? Watch the YouTube video that walks you through the FAFSA step by step using the mobile app. You’ll find it FAFSA-nating!
When completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you need money for college, the application may ask up to 13 dependency questions to determine whether you’re a dependent or an independent student. If you answer NO to every dependency question, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income and tax information.
But it’s not always that easy, because supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to special circumstances. If you’re in this situation, you’ll have an opportunity on the FAFSA to state that you’re unable to provide your parents’ information, at which time the FAFSA will inform you that a dependent student who doesn’t include his/her parents’ information will only be eligible for one type of federal financial aid—an Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan. Not reporting your parents’ data can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.
There are times when a college financial aid officer can ‘override’ your dependency status and change it to an independent status. This can be done if:
You had to leave home due to an abusive environment,
Your parents are incarcerated, or
You’re unable to contact your parents and don’t know where they live.
A financial aid officer won’t be able to switch your status to ‘independent’ simply because:
Your parents refuse to contribute their information,
You weren’t claimed as a dependent on their tax return, or
You aren’t living with your parents.
Basically, a dependency override can only be done in extreme situations. If you still believe you should be declared independent, discuss your circumstances with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest. A college’s financial aid office will always be your best resource when you have questions about anything related to the FAFSA. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.
As you navigate the college financial aid process, you may experience some twists and turns that you didn’t expect. When you’re enrolling in a technology center, career school, community college, or four-year college or university for the first time, you may not be sure what questions to ask the financial aid personnel at your school of interest. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask in order to have a better understanding of how it all works.
What types of financial aid do you offer?
If I’m awarded a scholarship, will it change the amount of aid you can offer me?
Does your school have a deadline for FAFSA submission? What are the consequences if I don’t meet the deadline?
When will I know how much financial aid I’ll be eligible to receive?
Am I considered to be a dependent student, or independent?
Is there a way to change my dependency status?
What should I do if I have a circumstance that causes my/my parent(s)’ income to change?
Are there resources available to help me investigate other types of aid, such as state grants and scholarships?
Do you offer an installment plan that would allow me to make monthly payments through the year? If so, are there any associated fees?
What is the average student loan debt for your graduates?
Most of these questions can only be answered by a knowledgeable financial aid officer, since no two students’ circumstances are the same. Many factors are considered to determine your financial need, which is based on the data you supply on your FAFSA. Always be patient with those who work in the financial aid office! They want you to attend their school, but they must follow federal regulations to the letter. The more you know, the more you can help them assess your situation.
As you prepare to pay college expenses, it’s important to know the amount of federal financial aid that may be available to you. Each year, grant amounts and student loan interest rates are subject to change. Here’s what you can expect for Academic Year 2021-2022.
Federal Pell Grant: Available to undergraduate students who qualify based on the level of their financial need as determined by Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Beginning July 1, 2021, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college will increase to $6,495.
Federal Work-Study Program: If your campus administers work-study funds, you may be able to sign up for a part-time job, either on-campus or an approved site off-campus, enabling you to earn money to pay some of your college expenses. The maximum amount you can earn in the work-study program will be determined by your level of financial need. If you’re interested in work-study, be sure to ask the financial aid office if would qualify for the program.
Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the interest rate on most federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020 is currently 0%. In addition, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. This 0% interest and suspension of payments will last through September 30, 2021, but you can still make payments if you choose.
The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2021-2022, beginning October 1, 2021, after the COVID-19 relief program has ended:
Fixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans
Undergraduate students (through Bachelor’s degree)
Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans
Graduate or professional students
Direct PLUS Loans
Parents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students
Be sure to visit StudentAid.gov for up-to-date information regarding interest rates and special allowances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What you need to know about submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid