Students who hope to utilize federal funds for their college educations will need to begin by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Here, they’ll provide information about their financial health, and the wealth of the family as a whole, and they’ll outline where they plan to go to school. There’s a lot of information involved, and not surprisingly, many students give up on filling out the form before the work is complete. For example, in 2012, 4 percent of high school students started to fill out the form and gave up before they were done, according to the American Institutes for Research. Perhaps, if these students studied up on FAFSA requirements, they’d be less likely to ditch the work before it’s completed.
Typical Records Required
Much of the FAFSA is devoted to information about a student’s identity and citizenship status. As a result, students are required to provide:
- Their Social Security Number
- Their driver’s license number
- Their Alien Registration Number (if the student isn’t a citizen of the United States)
- The Social Security Number of parents (if the student isn’t considered financially independent)
All of this information can help administrators to determine whether or not the student is a resident of the United States, and the information might also be provided to help check on the student’s financial background and history.
In addition to records concerning identity, the FAFSA demands a significant amount of information regarding finances. Much of this information can be pulled from that year’s tax forms, but students should also be prepared to know the balances of their checking accounts, savings accounts, bond accounts, stock market accounts and more, and they’ll need that same information from parents.
High School Diploma or GED
You must also prove that you are qualified to seek higher education in the form of college or career school. To do so, you must have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent like a Generalized Educational Development (GED) certificate. If you were homeschooled, you are still eligible if you can prove high school completion in a homeschool setting that is approved by state law. FAFSA also requires that you indicate your choice of college and maintain satisfactory academic progress while you are enrolled in the program.
Males Between 18 and 25 Must Be Members of U.S. Selective Service
If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you must register with the U.S. Selective Service in order to be eligible. Males in the United States are required by law to register for this within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You can register at any U.S. post office, and you do not need a Social Security number to do so. Registration in the program ensures your participation in U.S. government programs.
Financial Aid Used for Educational Purposes Only
In order to qualify for federal aid, you will have to sign a statement promising that you will only use the federal funds for educational purposes. Federal student aid is intended to go towards the cost of higher education and nothing else. Depending on the type of loan you receive, these funds can help pay for education expenses including tuition, school fees, and room and board.
No Loans in Default or Owing on Any Federal Grants
You also will be required to sign a statement indicating that you have no current loans that are in default. Default is when you fail to pay your loan based on the terms you agreed to in the promissory note. Typically, you are considered in default if you haven’t made a payment in 270 days, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
No money can be owed on a federal student grant either. A grant is a type of financial aid, usually based on financial need, that doesn’t typically need to be repaid unless you withdraw from school.
Another requirement for obtaining and remaining eligible for federal funds is that you not be found guilty of illegal drug possession or be found guilty for selling illegal drugs while you are receiving federal funds. If this happens, your funds may be suspended. You can, however, possibly regain your eligibility if you complete an approved drug rehabilitation program or pass two unannounced drug tests facilitated by an approved drug rehabilitation program. If convicted of a drug-related offense, you may also have to return any funds received during your period of ineligibility.
Moving Through the Process
By now, most students are at least aware of what a FAFSA is. For example, a report produced by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education found that 64 percent of all Minnesota students enrolled in undergraduate programs applied for aid with a FAFSA. But knowing that the form is out there, and even filling out the form in the past, doesn’t guarantee current success. The form is complicated, and there are some specific tips and tricks students should keep in mind.
For example, the FAFSA requires students to list at least one college they’re considering. Those students who are hoping to change schools, but who haven’t quite decided where they’d like to go, can’t just guess or leave the field blank. They’ll need to put the name of a school here.
Similarly, students are required to go through a series of questions that help them to determine whether or not they’re considered financially independent. These questions can seem intrusive or redundant, particularly for students who have filled out the form in the past, but it’s a vital part of the application process and it can’t be skipped.
It’s also important to remember that the FAFSA must be filled out each and every year. The information isn’t held over from one year to another, and the data a student enters in one year doesn’t impact decisions made in the next. When January rolls around, students simply must fill out the form again.
If you’d like to know more about how you can pay for school, and how filling out a FAFSA might be key to the success of your education, please browse our website. We have a variety of tools that can help you.
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- Demystifying the FAFSA
- FAFSA Season and the Financial Aid Reality Check
- Exit Counseling
- Filling it out for the Self-Employed
- Financial Stability
- How the FAFSA Challenged Us to Find Alternative Funding
- How to Determine Independent or Dependent Student Status
- Making Corrections
- Revising: A Primer for Parents
- The Calculations Behind the Application
- The FAFSA: That Wasn't So Bad After All
- The FAFSA: Your gateway to financial aid
- Tips on Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- To-Do Lists, Anxiety, and Preparing for College
- What Happens After the FAFSA?
- Why Submit the FAFSA?
- You filed the application, but do you know what it stands for?