What is the FAFSA and Why Does it Matter?

What is the FAFSA and Why Does it Matter?

Many college-bound students will require financial aid in order to attend the institution of their choice.

Students who plan to apply for scholarships or take out loans will need to do one or more of the following:

    • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    • Complete the CSS profile
    • Research scholarships online, via search engines or individual college websites

Let’s take a closer look at the FAFSA. The information provided on this form is used to determine the amount of money students and families are able to contribute toward college tuition. Federal financial aid then makes up some or all of the difference.

Here are a few tips for filling out the FAFSA:

Fill out the form online. While there is a paper FAFSA available, the online version is much more user-friendly! The platform will alert you to any errors and won’t send your application until it’s completed correctly; plus, your application will be received sooner. Create an account at https://fafsa.gov.

Complete the application ASAP. The FAFSA opens up for the next school year on October 1st. Fill it out as early as possible, since some financial aid packages have limited availability.

Gather as much information as possible before you get started. Make sure you have names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, and tax return information ready to go. Complete the form to the best of your ability, then…

…Work with a parent. The FAFSA requires a lot of technical information, including financial documentation based on tax returns. Enlist a parent to help you complete the form accurately, and don’t forget to update any estimates once your family has submitted their tax returns!

Take your time. The FAFSA has a few sections that ask specifically for parent or student information: be careful not to transpose the two. You should also have a parent double-check the information to make sure it’s as accurate as possible—absolutely no lying or misrepresentation on these answers!

Have your college list ready to go. Part of the FAFSA involves selecting the colleges you want to receive your financial information. Don’t leave your application in a holding pattern because you’re not sure which schools to send it to! If you haven’t created or narrowed down your college list yet, now’s the time. Our Guide to College Admissions breaks down how to create a list of schools that are a great fit for you.

Get support if you need it. If you have unusual family circumstances, or if you and your parent(s) aren’t sure how to answer a specific question on the FAFSA, get some help! The FAFSA website has tons of information to help troubleshoot your application, and your school counselor may be able to assist as well.

Reevaluate the need for the FAFSA annually. Students seeking ongoing financial aid will need to fill out the FAFSA every year. If your family’s financial circumstances have changed, the financial aid offered to you may change as well.

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Picture of Jay B.

Jay B.

Jay Bacrania is the CEO of Signet Education. As a high schooler, Jay won awards for chemistry at the state level in his home state of Florida, and at Harvard, he initially studied physics. After graduating, Jay spent two years studying jazz trumpet at the Berklee College of Music.

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