What is the FAFSA? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the form the federal government and schools use to determine your eligibility for financial assistance. Schools also base their financial aid package on the FAFSA. And, as the name implies, the FAFSA is completely free.
When should I apply? The new FAFSA form became available on January 1. Submit your application as soon after January 1 as possible. At many schools, funds are limited; if you submit your FAFSA too late, they will not have any aid left for you! You should submit a FAFSA every year you need aid - even if you think you don't qualify for financial aid. Your eligibility can change from year to year, especially if there are changes in your family's circumstances.
What happens next? If you apply online, you will receive your Student Aid Report, or SAR, approximately 2 weeks. It's your official record that the federal processor received your FAFSA. Once you have received your SAR:
1. Review to make sure all the information is correct. If there are any errors, ask your school's financial aid office how to make corrections.
2. Note your Data Release Number (DRN). You will need it to apply to additional schools.
3. Check to see if your SAR has been selected for verification. If so, respond ASAP; your aid offer may be delayed until the materials are received.
TIPS FOR FILLING OUT THE PAPER FASFA:
1. Use your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card. Don't use nicknames or aliases.
2. Read the questions carefully.
3. Do not leave a field blank. If the answer is zero or the question does not apply to you, write in a zero.
4. If your parents are divorces or separated, the parent with whom you lived most often in the past 12 months is the one who should fill out the FAFSA. If that parent has remarried, you will also include the information of the step-parent.
5. Be sure you sign the application before mailing.
6. Make a copy of the form before mailing.