December 11, 2017

College Financial Aid: Where to Begin

Wondering how to pay for college? Student financial aid continues to boondoggle many students and frustrate parents. Charging willy-nilly into student loans and other types of financial aid is not an advisable strategy. What, then, is the best first step to college financial aid? Federal student loans–and for a couple of very good reasons.

Why Leave Federal Cash on the Table?

Year after year millions of American college bound students fail to file for federal financial aid or they file incorrectly for various reasons:

  • They missed the deadline
  • Didn’t think they’d qualify for any financial aid from the government
  • Had little support from family or school to aid in the process
  • Submitted incomplete applications
  • Just didn’t file.

The most unfortunate aspect of these failures to file is that in most cases students would qualify for some cash from Uncle Sam.

Failure to File the FAFSA Could Impact Other Financial Aid Efforts

What many students and parents don’t realize is that filing for federal student aid is a requirement for many other forms of financial aid, student loans, and most scholarships. If you fail to file the FAFSA, you automatically exempt yourself from other college money sources.

Filing for Federal Financial Aid

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to federal student aid in recent years has been the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the official government application. It’s earned a reputation as absurdly long and tortuous to complete. In fact many parents require assistance from schools and financial aid personnel to successfully complete the form. But the good news is that the federal government continues to make improvements in hopes that fewer students will lose out on possibly thousands of dollars in some of the lowest interest loans available.

Recent FAFSA improvements include:

  • Shorter FAFSA form.
  • Accessible online in both English and Spanish versions.
  • Applicants’ federal income tax data can be estimated for early submissions and automatically filled in later with final tax data.
  • FAFSA website has been redesigned to be ultra-easy to navigate.
  • Finding your PIN and getting the necessary information on FAFSA deadlines is straightforward and up-front.

Getting the FAFSA Done Correctly

Because filing for federal student loans is so critical a part of the college financial aid process, it’s imperative that parents and students carry out all stages of filing:

  • Find FAFSA deadlines that apply to you. The FAFSA website gives you the federal deadline and enables you to search for your state deadline. But your college also has a FAFSA deadline. Tip: gather all deadlines and shoot for the earliest.
  • Get assistance filling out the FAFSA form if you need it. contact your high school guidance counselor or college admissions advisor. Some high schools and communities offer seminars and help sessions throughout the financial aid “season.”

In the realm of college financial aid, filing for federal aid is by far the most important first step you can take.

For more information, visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

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