It's natural to wonder how much financial aid you are eligible for when you are preparing to attend college. The only way to know is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Finding the FAFSA Application
The official FAFSA form can be found at the Federal Student Aid website, and you can fill it out online. There is no other place to find this official government form; if you fill out any document other than this form, you are not actually applying for federal student aid.
FAFSA Completion Tips
Although the FAFSA process can seem intimidating, it will be more manageable if you follow a few simple tips:
- Remember to include the federal school codes for every college or university you are considering attending in the following academic year so that your information will be forwarded to them automatically. You can find the codes you need at the FAFSA website.
- Use your (or your parents') previous year's income tax forms to ensure you have the correct information for your income, assets, and taxes paid. Providing false information may result in serious criminal penalties.
- Use your full legal name as it appears on your Social Security card, and double check your Social Security number before mailing your application. If you are a dependent student, you must include one of your parents' Social Security numbers in addition to yours.
- Provide all requested information, making sure that everything you include is both accurate and complete.
- Seek assistance from your school's financial aid office if you need help.
The federal deadline for FAFSA submission for an academic year is June 30. This means that individuals applying for financial aid for the 2013-2014 academic year must apply no later than June 30 of 2013. However, the deadline may be earlier for consideration for some state and school-specific programs. You can find FAFSA deadline details specific to your circumstances at the FAFSA deadlines page.
Don't Wait to Apply
It's important to note that students should not wait until the deadline to apply. There is a finite amount of funding available each academic year, and awards are made to eligible students on a first come, first served basis. It is feasible that you could meet eligibility requirements, yet be denied funding because no federal money is available by the time your application is submitted. You should apply as soon as you (or your parents) have tax return information for the previous year.