The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application colleges use to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans, and work-study programs.
To start the FAFSA application process, go to www.fafsa.gov
Important FAFSA Information
* The FAFSA is a requirement for ALL college admissions. If your family does not qualify for financial aid, the FAFSA is still required. It may help students earn scholarships, grants, or provide lower interest rates on loans.
* Submit the FAFSA immediately after January 1, 2015 for the 2015/2016 college year. You may have to submit your FAFSA twice, once to make the initial deadline by using your 2013 federal tax returns and once after your family completes their 2014 federal tax returns. (Please Note: you need to meet the “college” FAFSA deadline, which is much earlier than the “federal” FAFSA deadline.)
* Many priority financial aid deadlines for colleges/universities is in February. To get the best financial award package, apply by the colleges’ priority date.
* It is also important for your family to make contact with the financial aid office with the colleges the student applies to in order to ensure they have received all the necessary information by the deadline. Keep copies of everything you send.
Understanding "Grants vs. Loans"
* Federal GRANTS are available for students attending colleges, including career colleges and universities. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid.
* Federal student LOANS allow students and their parents to borrow money to help pay for college. They have low interest rates and offer flexible repayment terms, benefits, and options.
* Subsidized loans are federally guaranteed loans based on financial need. Interest does not accrue on the loan while you are in school at least half time, or during any future deferment periods. The federal government "subsidizes" (or pays) the interest during these times. Additionally, there are maximum amounts you can receive per school year.
* Unsubsidized loans are federally guaranteed loans that are not based on financial need. Interest does accrue from the time the loan is disbursed to the school. Additionally, there are maximum amounts you can receive per school year for dependent and independent students.
Understanding "Expected Family Contribution"
All college students are expected to contribute towards their education costs. How much you and your family will be expected to contribute depends on your financial situation — and is what’s called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The FAFSA is the form the U.S. Department of Education requires to determine your EFC. The government conducts a “need analysis” based on financial information, such as income, assets, and other family information, which you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) will be asked to provide.
Use the Net Price Calculator
All undergraduate colleges are required to have a net price calculator on their website. This provides students with an estimated cost to attend college. Here is a link for students to estimate their costs: netpricecalculator.collegeboard.org
Understanding "More About Finacial Aid & College Loans"
§ Paying for College from the National Center for Student Success