Wouldn’t it be great if you could find that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow to help you pay for college? As luck would have it, a free ride to college just isn’t in the cards for most folks. Your next best bet is to submit the Free Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By submitting the FAFSA, you’re able to determine how much federal and state aid you may be eligible to receive to help pay for college.
Already submitted the FAFSA? It’s never too late to start applying for scholarships. Be sure to take advantage of the helpful information provided in UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide to help you as you go.
You can expect several things after you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- If your application is error-free, you’ll be directed to a confirmation page with a confirmation number. This page will be emailed to you, but it’s also a good idea to save or print it for your records.
- Your information will be made available to the schools you included on your FAFSA application. They will have access to your information about a day after your application is processed. However, it may take them longer to retrieve your information, depending on their system. Want to add more schools? See our previous post for more information.
- About 3-5 days after you submit the FAFSA, you’ll receive an email containing instructions for accessing your Student Aid Report (SAR). If the email address you provided is not valid, your SAR will be mailed to you within 7-10 days.
- Be sure to check your SAR for accuracy. It contains important information including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which schools use to determine how much federal financial aid you qualify for, including grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans.
- Once the colleges you listed on your application process your information, they’ll send you a financial aid award letter detailing the aid you’re eligible to receive. The schools may request additional information and if they do, be sure to send it in promptly.
Because a few types of financial aid are available year-round, there is not a specific deadline to submit the FAFSA. However, many scholarships and grants require information from your submitted FAFSA and have deadlines early in the year.
If you plan to apply for grants and scholarships that require information from your FAFSA, find out which grant or scholarship has the earliest deadline and aim to submit your FAFSA before then. Allow yourself enough time to get organized, gather materials, file your taxes, if possible, and complete the application.
Check out our previous post for more information about the benefits of applying early!
When it comes to submitting the FAFSA, it holds true that the early bird gets the worm (or in this case, the money).
Those who apply for financial aid early in the year:
- Receive their financial aid eligibility results earlier.
- Open more opportunities to earn scholarships and grants with early deadlines.
- Have one less item on their “To-Do Before College” list.
Remember, some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), are first-come first served. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to make sure you miss out on any financial aid opportunities. However, many other types of financial aid are available throughout the year, so be sure to apply even if you think you may be too late.
Even if you think you or your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, submit the FAFSA anyway. Students are often surprised by the aid they’re awarded.
There’s not a specific income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid, and many other factors are considered. The only hard and fast rules of eligibility are that you must:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
- Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Even if you are not awarded grants, most students qualify for some type of federal student aid. Some schools use the data from your FAFSA to award state or school-specific grants and scholarships, so submitting the application may open more doors than you expect.
On average, it takes less than an hour to fill out the FAFSA online, so why not do it? It could turn out to be well worth your time!
We get it. You may not think of fun when you think about the FAFSA. Few folks enjoy paperwork, and the FAFSA requires time, personal information and answers to tricky questions. But, like so many other aspects of adult life, there’s no reward without effort. If you need money to help pay for college, the FAFSA is the place to start. You must complete the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for federal (and some state) financial aid.
If you don’t complete the FAFSA, here’s what you could miss out on:
- Work-study opportunities
- Low-interest student loans
- State Aid
If you’re planning to go to college this fall, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to help maximize your financial aid offers. Save yourself some time by completing the form online at FAFSA.gov.