Many first time college students do not realize that applying for federal student aid to pay for college is a multi-step process. The first step in the process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, this is not the actual application for student loans or grants. This is actually just a form that will help to determine what your FAFSA eligibility is, and what your financial need is.
Once the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is submitted, you will be receiving an SAR, or Student Aid Report. This is essentially just an acknowledgement of the information that you entered on the FAFSA. The SAR is very important, as it also states your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution – which also helps to determine what financial aid you are eligible for based on your FAFSA, and how much you might be awarded.
When you receive your SAR, you need to check with your schools financial aid office to make sure that they received a copy as well. If they didn’t, give them a copy of yours. Usually, the financial aid office will put together an aid package for you, based on the results on your SAR, for all grants and loans that you may be eligible for, and often for any scholarships that you are eligible for as well. This should contain all of the applications that you need to fill out.
Usually, you and your school will be notified of award and award amounts that you will be receiving from all types of federal student aid, and that aid is most often sent directly to the school, applied to your tuition, fees, and books, and the rest is given to you by the school. Again, this entire process starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
Typically, in order to be eligible for any type of federal student aid based on your FAFSA eligibility, you must be a citizen of the United States, or an eligible non-citizen. You must have a valid social security number and a high school diploma or GED. You must be either enrolled in or accepted by a school that participates in federal student aid programs, and you must also be enrolled in an approved program of study at that school. You must be enrolled as a half time or full time student, and if you are male and between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, you must be registered with Selective Service.
Additionally, you cannot have a drug conviction on your criminal record at any time while you were receiving any type of federal student aid, and you cannot owe any refunds on federal grants or student loans. Naturally, there must also be a financial need, which is determined by your FAFSA Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is actually fairly easy, as the forms have been simplified, and it can be obtained from your schools student aid office, your high school counselor’s office, or on the web at the FAFSA GOV or FAFSA ED GOV online website. This will be the very first step for any student financial aid – so do it now if you are planning on attending college.