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FAFSA Tips: How to Apply for Financial Aid

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  • 0:04 What Is the FAFSA?
  • 0:20 FAFSA Eligibility
  • 0:51 FAFSA Requirements
  • 1:56 FAFSA Application Process
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha has a Doctor of Education degree in math education and is currently working as a Information Technology Specialist.

You are offered admission to the college of your choice! How do you pay for this? In this lesson, we review the requirements, application process, and the federal aids for college available through FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

What Is the FAFSA?

Kelly and James are excited. They're going to be attending the university in their hometown. Fortunately, the university offers financial aid to eligible students. The very first step is to complete the FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, on the federal student aid website before the deadline.

FAFSA Eligibility

Both Kelly and James are eligible to complete the FAFSA application because they are enrolling in a four-year college. Some of their friends who are enrolled in two-year colleges and professional or degree-granting schools are also successful recipients of different kinds of federal aids for their educations.

Both of them meet one or more of the requirements for the FAFSA application:

  • High school diploma or DED
  • U.S. citizen
  • Eligible non-citizen or DACA
  • Student visa
  • Exchange visitor visa
  • International visa
  • Satisfactory academic progress, and
  • No criminal conviction

FAFSA Requirements

The FAFSA can be completed online or by downloading the myStudentAid app on a mobile device.

The documents and information they need are:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social security or alien registration number
  • Parents' social security numbers
  • Driver's license number
  • Tax returns
  • Record of untaxed income such as child support
  • Interest income and veterans benefits
  • Savings and checking account balances
  • Investments, including stocks and bonds
  • Real estate
  • Business and farm assets

Some of the questions on the dependency form are about:

  • If year of birth falls before a determined year
  • Marriage status
  • Active duty
  • number of dependents and support provided to them

If the answer to any one question on the dependency form is a yes, then the student is not considered a dependent for FAFSA purposes.

Kelly answered every dependency question with a no, and so she is considered to be a dependent student. Kelly will need to provide social security numbers and tax and income information about her parents. If she's unable to provide this information, her application will be rejected and the most she would be considered for is an unsubsidized loan.

FAFSA Application Process

The instructions on filling out a FAFSA application are found on the FAFSA application website. The very first step is to create a strong user name and password combination, or FSA ID, for signing into the online FAFSA application. As a dependent student, Kelly's mother also had to create an FSA IDof her own, so that the application could be signed electronically.

After completing his FAFSA, James received an email with instructions on how to access his SAR, or Student Aid Report. His report included his EFC, or expected family contribution; the DRN, which is a 4-digit data release number; and also a note that he has been selected for verification. Since the school receives a copy of the SAR, James was contacted by his school to complete the verification process. James was careful to provide all the required information by the school's deadline because otherwise, he would not be able to get the financial aid he needs so much.

Kelly found a mistake on the SAR. She had to log into the FAFSA site using the FSA ID and following the link to make the FAFSA corrections. She needed the DRN for this that was printed on the upper right corner of her SAR.

The financial aid package, which is the combination of all aids, was different for both of them since they are attending different schools. They were both able to calculate the net price of net cost of attending their schools using the formula:

  • Net Cost = Cost of Attendance (COA) - (Grants and Scholarships from financial aid package + savings for school expenses)

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