Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA

  • Student Loans, Financial Advice, College
  • June 10, 2021
  • FCU Team

Paying for college is a concern millions of students and parents deal with every year, and the FAFSA is the answer to many of those concerns. With the 2021 FAFSA deadline drawing near (June 30), we created a comprehensive blog on all you need to know, whether you’re a student or parent, about the FAFSA, including tips and mistakes to avoid.

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Aid,” and it’s used to apply for federal student aid programs offered by the U.S. Department of Education. This is money that covers school-related costs, such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and more.

How to Apply

Applying for the FAFSA starts here. Per the student aid website, a number of documents are needed to get started:

  • Your social security number
  • Income: federal income tax returns, W-2s and any other records of money earned
  • Bank statements and any records of investments
  • Records of untaxed income
  • A FSA ID

If you’re a dependent (meaning a student still on your parents’ tax returns), you will also need your parents’ information for most of those items. Gather your information prior to beginning the application to ensure as smooth a process as possible.

Mistakes to Avoid

A successful FAFSA application experience means keeping mistakes to a minimum! Before you start filling your application out, be aware of these common mistakes:

Not Filling the FAFSA Out

The #1 mistake you can make when it comes to the FAFSA is choosing to not fill it out in the first place! It’s free (it’s in the name!), and there’s no obligation to use the funds. The FAFSA is a tool to see what kind of help you or your college-bound (or currently attending) child could receive.

Many families think they won’t qualify for need-based aid because of their income level, but you’ll never know if you don’t try! Beyond typical aid such as loans, the FAFSA also includes other helpful financial aid like access to grants, work-study programs and more. Financial situations can change, and knowing how to fill out the FAFSA can make future application processes progress more easily.

Having Errors in Your Application

Whether it’s something as simple as writing down your address incorrectly or a bigger issue like incorrectly representing your income, you don’t want errors to make it onto your application. The latter is especially important, as income is one of the most important factors in determining the kinds of financial aid you or your child can receive. Other errors, such as incorrectly spelled names or social security numbers, can cause delays in the application pipeline that you may not be able to afford.

Moral of the story: double-check your work! And if you have any questions about a part of FAFSA application, studentaid.gov is the place to go.

Applying at the Last Possible Second

If you were jumping out of an airplane, would you wait until the last minute to deploy your parachute? Of course not! That’s why you should fill out your FAFSA as early as possible. Beyond just the peace of mind you’ll feel after submitting, you’ll get information on your aid package faster, which can help determine college-related decisions such as which school to attend or what your living situation might look like.

Not Re-applying Next Year

The FAFSA is not a “one and done” process. Finances and family situations change all the time, meaning your eligibility can, too. At the end of the day, financial aid relies upon you renewing your FAFSA every year, so don’t forget!

After Applying

Once your application is submitted, you will have to wait for your Student Aid Report. The report is typically delivered to you digitally within three to five days after your submission, and it is your final chance to make sure everything on the report is correct. Each college you are accepted to will send you an award letter from their financial aid office informing you of how much aid you are eligible to receive.

Beyond the FAFSA

If you're looking for school funds, FCU members and family members are eligible for scholarships we offer for those planning to and already attending college. We award three scholarships to students based on a wide criteria that includes scholastic record, future potential, leadership, initiative, character, dependability, integrity and financial needs. Find out more about our scholarships here.

Florida Credit Union has also partnered with Sallie Mae® in order to provide student loans with competitive rates to those looking to further their education. Find out more by visiting the student loans section of our website. Should your savings, scholarships and need-based aid not be enough, private student loans can help to round out the amount you need to pay for college. It only takes 15 minutes to apply!

 

 

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Florida Credit Union is a full-service financial institution. Founded in 1954 as the Alachua County Teachers’ Credit Union, FCU now services over 120,000 members in 48 counties throughout North and Central Florida. For more information on the services we provide, visit FLCU.org or call us at 1-800-284-1144.