By: Andrew Swinney with Kasasa®
Applying to college is stressful. You have mountains of essays to write, fears around acceptance, and the massive burden of figuring out how the heck you’re going to pay for it all. Your first step in figuring out your financial aid is completing the FAFSA.
FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” and it is a way for the government to see if you qualify for any financial aid. If you qualify, you could receive grants, scholarships, or other federal programs like work-study and federal loans.
If you’re applying for college, you’re likely eligible. Here is what you need.
Foreign students are also eligible for FAFSA. There are some different requirements, the biggest of which is having a green card. FAFSA only looks at the student’s residence status, meaning a student’s parents’ status is not considered.
The federal deadline to submit your FAFSA is June 30, 2019. States will also look at your submission to see if you qualify for any state-level assistance. State deadlines vary. For example, Louisiana has a FAFSA deadline of June 1, but Delaware has a FAFSA deadline of April 15. You can find your state’s deadline here.
A common mistake people make is only checking the state deadline for where they live and not for where they are applying. If you apply to an out-of-state institution, then you’re FAFSA needs to meet that state’s deadline.
Juggling these deadlines can be tricky, especially if you are applying to multiple schools across multiple states. We recommend you research those dates ASAP, write them down in a sheet like this, and then put it someplace prominent (like, tape it to your mirror). Missing a deadline could literally cost you thousands of dollars.
We’ve only listed five spaces because that’s generally how many you should apply to. More than that and you should spend some time narrowing down your list. Plus, remember that every application comes with an application fee. Focus on the universities that you really want to attend and give them your best work.
I want to be clear when we say prior year. Pretend you want to go to school starting in the fall of 2020. You should start filling out the FAFSA in 2019. You will need to provide financial documents from 2018.
FAFSA has a convenient tool that will pull in this information for you.
A common mistake college students make is believing that the FAFSA is only for freshmen. It’s not.
You should renew your FAFSA every year you are enrolled for several reasons.
There are a few scenarios where you might want to correct your FAFSA. For example, you want to add a college, update contact information, or change some of your financials.
Luckily, it’s really easy to do. Just log into your online FAFSA form and click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Changes will take effect in 3 to 5 days.
If you need any additional help, you can always call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.