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FAFSA: Making It as Easy as Possible to Get Federal Student Aid

Feb 29, 2008
The cost of college education continues to increase at a rate well above the growth rate of average American income. Federal student aid is therefore an important part of getting a college education for most students in the U.S. To get help from the government paying for your education, you need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid ("FAFSA"). In addition to the federal government, state governments, schools and other financial institutions will also use the information from FAFSA to ascertain your eligibility for non-federal student aid programs.

The FAFSA consists of 102 questions which are intended to create a picture of your personal, financial, and academic situation. After examining your application, the government will create and send you a Student Aid Report ("SAR") which contains your Expected Family Contribution ("EFC"). Your EFC determines your eligibility for various financial aid programs, both federal and non-federal.

To begin the FAFSA process, visit the following URL: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Documents You Need

You will need several documents and pieces of information to complete the FAFSA. These include:

Your social security number
Your driver's license number
W-2s and other records of income
The previous year's federal income tax return
If you are a dependent student, your parents' previous year's federal income tax return
Untaxed income records
Current bank statements
Business and investment records
If you are not a U.S. citizen, your alien registration or permanent residence card

You can download a FAFSA on the Web Worksheet, which will help you organize your documents, at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before012.htm.

Cutting Down on Time with the FAFSA4Caster

The FAFSA4Caster is an online application that lets you receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. It lets you get your documentation together and go through the process of applying well in advance of when you actually need the money. It lets you resolve issues well in advance. The application process also automatically generates a Federal Student Aid PIN, which will you need when you fill out your FAFSA.

Another big advantage of using the FAFSA4Caster is that much of the information entered in the application process will pre-populate the real application. However, the FAFSA4Caster asks fewer questions than the real application because it is only concerned with the data necessary to determine federal eligibility.

You can fill out the FAFSA4Caster application at the following URL: http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov.

Important Points

For most kinds of student aid, a new FAFSA must be completed every year that the student is in school. A separate FAFSA must also be completed for every individual child in a family that needs student aid. If these issues cause excess difficulty for you, there are fee-based services which will store information that can be ported to different applications. An online search for "FAFSA" will show you some of these companies.

If you or your parents have not yet done your taxes, you can still go through the FAFSA application process using documents such as W-2s and bank statements to estimate your income. You can adjust your application later, with no penalty. It is best to file your FAFSA as early as possible.

Conclusion

College is expensive. The FAFSA can make it easier for you to get the money you need. Even if you have other sources of payment, it only makes sense to complete the FAFSA because the funding you receive may be less expensive than other sources. If you use the FAFSA4Caster, you can take your time and make sure you have all of your documentation ready. When the time comes for you to complete the FAFSA, you will be well-prepared.
About the Author
Student Loan Financial Group makes life easier for students with its Quick-To-Learn private student loans product. Our online application only takes about 15 minutes, and you get an answer within a week.
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