It’s That Time Of Year Again
January is the time of year when families should complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. January 1st was the first day families could apply for federal aid for the 2016-17 academic year.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the main form used by colleges to determine student and family eligibility for need-based aid. When to file? The FAFSA should be filed as soon after January 1st as possible, as the bucket of federal monies is very limited. It is important to then re-file yearly while attending college. Why re-file every year? Federal student aid does not carry over from one to the next. The FAFSA must be filled each year because eligibility may change year over year. What causes change in FAFSA info? The student and their family’s financial situation may change from year to year and the number of family members enrolled in college may change as well.
The FAFSA collects basic information about both the student and his/her parents’ incomes and assets, and uses this information to determine an expected family contribution (EFC). The EFC is the amount that the student and family are expected to contribute towards the student’s college expenses during the next academic year. The difference between the EFC and the total cost of attendance at your college of choice is known as demonstrated need. Using the demonstrated need figure, colleges prepare a customized financial aid package for each admitted student who qualifies for need-based financial aid.
This package may include grants and loans, as well as self-help such as work-study opportunities. Only a limited number of colleges guarantee to meet 100% of established need, so financial aid may not cover all of your expenses at a particular college. And realize that LOANS are considered part of the overall financial aid package.
You are NEVER too rich to apply for financial aid. Do you just ASSUME you won’t receive any aid? Think again!
Here are 5 reasons why you should file regardless of your income level:
Complete the FAFSA online at https://fafsa.ed.gov as soon as possible after January 1st. Parents and students need 2015 tax returns and other financial records as noted on the site. It is possible to complete the FAFSA even if tax returns are not complete. For the FAFSA, use estimated figures and update later. It’s best to complete the FAFSA as early as in the year as possible.
Karen Goldberg is the founder of Right Fit College Decision, a comprehensive college counseling practice. She works closely with students, parents, financial aid counselors, and teachers to develop an individualized strategy for each client to develop a list of schools that provide the “Right Fit”–academically, socially, geographically for the student and financially for the family. She is based in Pacific Palisades, CA.
|Tags: EFC, FAFSA, Federal Student Aid, Financial aid|