Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Financial Aid: Getting Familiar with the FAFSA

The first step in getting Financial Aid for college is to become familiar with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). At the recent financial aid night sponsored by the CHS guidance department, parents were given information about how to begin the often confusing process of filing the FAFSA. Here are some tips to get you started:

The FAFSA can be completed online or by mail. It is much easier to complete online. You will only have to answer questions that apply to you, and there are interactive instructions and live help. Even better, your application is submitted instantly.

The earliest you can submit your FAFSA application is January 1st. The final deadline is usually in June, but if you wait that long you will miss out on some financial aid. Many schools and states have earlier deadlines, so it’s a good idea to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible.

There are companies that offer to fill out the FAFSA for you — and charge a steep fee. Don’t pay anyone to help you fill out the FAFSA! You will have to provide all of the same information, and will fill out very similar forms. There is even a chance that you will miss out on aid if the company is missing information from you or makes mistakes.

To complete the FAFSA:

To see a video of how easy it is to complete the FAFSA, visit:

You can get a head start by filling out the FAFSA4caster at any time before you apply. The information you enter into the FAFSA4caster can be transferred to the FAFSA. It's located at:

The PIN

Request your Personal Identification Number (PIN) before you fill out the FAFSA. It isn’t required, but using a PIN will speed up the process and get your information to schools faster.

You can use your PIN to sign and submit the FAFSA electronically and view your Student Aid Report (SAR) online. If you submit the FAFSA online, you’ll receive your SAR in less than a week by email. If you mail in your signature, it can take up to four weeks! Still not sure it’s worth the trouble? You will also need a PIN to update your FAFSA after you file your taxes.

To apply for your own PIN, go to:

After You Apply

If you apply online and sign using a PIN, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in about a week. If you are accepted into the schools you list on your FAFSA, they will offer you financial aid packages. These offers may consist of federal, state, and private funds in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. Check out each section to learn