If your child is preparing to attend college, they should fill out the FAFSA. Formerly known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, this is a form that must be prepared every year in order for your child to receive federal aid. Both undergraduate and graduate students must complete the form so the federal government can determine their eligibility for student aid. All colleges use the FAFSA and every college your child is considering should be included on the application form so the college has the necessary information they need to process your student’s application.
Even if you or your child doesn’t believe they are eligible for financial aid, they should still complete the FAFSA. Everything can be done online and the application is pretty user-friendly to complete.
Before the FAFSA can be processed, either you or your child must complete last year’s federal tax return and input the information on the form. There is a link directly to the IRS if you don’t want to take the time to manually input the information.
The type of financial aid offered will depend on either your or your child’s income. If you claim your child on your federal tax returns, your child will not be able to use their income. This can impact the amount of aid offered to your child.
The results of the FAFSA review also determines if your child is eligible for low-cost student loans or other types of financial aid such as the Pell grant.
The FAFSA asks for both student and parent information as long as the student is unmarried and under age 24. The information required includes assets, income, and demographic information. The information must be accurate and up to date when the FAFSA is filed. Each school year, the FAFSA is updated which is why a new version must be completed every year.
Once the FAFSA is completed and successfully submitted, it is reviewed and the Expected Family Contribution is calculated. This is the amount that a family is expected to contribute to a student’s costs for college. This number is independent of a specific college and is used by all colleges.
The colleges use the FAFSA to both determine the amount of aid a student may receive and to calculate if a student can receive any of the college’s own funds. A student will receive their score anywhere from one to three weeks after submitting the FAFSA.