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What you need to know about FAFSA for financial aid

Many college students have heard the term FAFSA, but if you are not, don’t be intimidated. The FAFSA can be simple and rewarding if you have all the information first.

First thing’s first, what exactly is FAFSA?  FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Anyone who wants financial aid for college must fill out the FAFSA form. 

“FASA is the federal financial aid document and it is used by all schools to make awards of federal financial aid,” said Eric Weems, Loyola University Chicago director of financial aid. 

The application is used to determine how much money you or your family will need to contribute towards college. 

FAFSA is managed by the Office of Federal Student Aid, which is part of the Department of Higher Education. According to their Web site, the Office of Federal Student Aid processes roughly 14 million financial aid applications a year and they disburse about $80 billion in financial aid. 

Now that you know what FAFSA financial aid means and how it works, the next step is to fill out your FAFSA form. 

“It is filled out by students and their parents together usually all online,” Weems said. 

It should take about an hour to complete the form, but that is only if you have all the necessary documents.  You and your parents will need your most recent income tax return or your that of your parents if you are a dependent, your current bank statements, your current investment records if you have any, records of any untaxed income you may have received, your driver’s license, your social security number, and if you are not a U.S. citizen you will need your alien registration or permanent resident card. Once you have all these documents ready, you can quickly fill out your FAFSA to get financial aid. 

The FAFSA requires information in five categories: Information about the student, information about the student’s dependency status, information about the student’s parents, information about the student’s finances, and a list of schools that should receive the results of the FAFSA. 

You can fill out the FAFSA online or you can apply through the mail with a paper form. The Office of Federal Student Aid recommends the online application because it conducts immediate error checking and tends to speed up the process by a few weeks. Another advantage to completing the application online is that students can save their work and return to the application at a later date. 

It is important that you know when the deadline is for your school’s financial aid. Most state deadlines are earlier than the June 30 federal deadline. 

Once you have filled out your FAFSA for the year, you are not done with the form for good. Students and parents will need to fill out the FAFSA every year they would like to get financial aid while in school.  

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