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What is the FAFSA and How to Complete It

The Most Important Facts on FAFSA Application Process

About the FAFSA

Thousands of college and university students in the USA today utilize some sort of federal student aid as assistance in paying for their post secondary education. In order to become eligible for US government financial support provided by the Department of Education, as a first step students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, the universal application for all categories of federal student aid. The best approach to filling out your federal student aid application is to take enough time in advance to prepare yourself for filling out the FAFSA which will make application process relatively easy. This in particular means that you should try to collect and prepare all the needed documentation and information before you go ahead and complete the application. Reason for doing this is obvious, that kind of preparation will save you a huge amount of time and prevent for making any mistakes in your application. The earliest date you can complete the FAFSA is January 1st, and the deadline for submitting it is June 30th  for the upcoming school year.

Before completing the FAFSA, the first thing to keep in mind is that you have to meet certain federal student aid eligibility requirements to be able to qualify for federal student aid.

In order to fill out your FAFSA application, you are going to need the something of the following information and documentation:

  • Social security number
  • Institutional codes for each school you plan apply to
  • Your bank statements
  • Driver’s license
  • Foreign registration card, or Permanent Resident card if you are not a US citizen
  • Tax returns and W-2 forms
  • If you are still dependent child you’re going to need your parents’ tax documents
  • In case you’re married – your spouse’s tax documents
  • Current untaxed income statements such as veteran’s benefits, welfare, etc.
  • Business and farm documentation
  • Investment records and statements
  • Mortgage documentation

After collecting all the necessary information and documentation, the actual process of completing your FAFSA should not be difficult. There are two ways of completing the FAFSA: you can complete it online or in the written version. The more convenient way is to fill it out online, since the paper version will take you longer to complete it and submit it via regular mail.

The Written FAFSA Option

In case you decide to fill in the printed form, you can get a copy by requesting one at fafsa.ed.gov or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID. Also, you can print your copy from federalstudentaid.ed.gov. or request a copy at your college’s student financial aid department.

Completing the FAFSA Online

In order to complete the online FAFSA option, first thing to do is to go to the official FAFSA website, fafsa.ed.gov . Application process is pretty simple: just follow the instructions provided and easily complete your application online.

Prior to formal submission of your application, you need to have your PIN which serves as your identity verification and it is rather similar to personal number that you would use to access any of your personal accounts. To get your PIN, visit www.pin.ed.gov.

FAFSA Application Steps

The FAFSA comprises seven most important segments, and each section has its own purpose, questions, and required information that applicants are required to submit. Applicants can always go back and make edits once they have finished filling out the whole application.

1. Personal Information

This section includes personal data such as applicant’s name, date of birth, social security number and address. The furtherer questions in this part will include information on her or his citizenship or residency status, academic progress and whether or not she or he may have an illegal drug conviction on your record.

2. School Choice

In this section of FAFSA applicants will be asked to provide list of ten schools they are interested in. Additional information required will involve their enrollment status and selecting whether or not they are interested in federal student aid programs.

3. Dependency Status

In this part of FAFSA application, students are going to find a list of questions intended to determine their dependency status. The list of questions appears as the following:

  • Are you a veteran of the United States armed forces?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the United States armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you married at the moment?
  • Were you born before January 1, 1987?
  • Will you be enrolled in a master’s, or doctorate program at the start of the school year?

If your answer to any of the previous questions is yes, you may be considered as an “independent” for the approaching school year.

4. Parent Information

In this section student will be required to provide basic information about her parents such as their names, social security numbers, marital status, and your family household, like the size of the household and the number of persons from her family who are going to be attending college or university during the next school year.

5. Financial Information

This segment requires information on applicant’s last year’s tax return, current income and property. In case applicant is still dependant, he’ll have to provide financial information about his parents and himself alike. If he is determined as an independent, he won’t have to give financial information about his parents.

6. Reviewing and Submitting the FAFSA

In this part of FAFSA applicants are given the chance to review and save their application. In addition, students will have to agree to a legal statement serving as a certified confirmation that all the information provided during completing the FAFSA are accurate and honest, and that they won’t use their federal student aid for anything else besides academic-related purposes. By entering his social security number and PIN applicant should be able to go right ahead and officially submit his application by choosing submit option.

7. Confirmation

After submitting the application, applicant will then be taken to a confirmation page where a random confirmation number, and information release number will be provided which means that the FAFSA application is successfully completed.

The Student Aid Report

Once you have completed your FAFSA you will be sent a Student Aid Report (SAR) which contains all the information you provided in your application as well as your eligibility for particular types of federal student aid and your EFC (Expected Family Contribution of financial need). After two or three weeks the SAR will be sent by mail to your home address provided in the application.

At the end, it’s very important to bear in mind that in order to obtain a federal student aid, a new FAFSA application should be filled out for the each college year.

Video Guide  to Learn How to Fill Out the FAFSA in 7 Easy Steps


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Understanding Federal Direct Student Loans Program

Direct student loans are federal educational loans with low interest rates. These loans are provided by the US Department of Education with the intention to help students and their parents to pay for postsecondary educational expenses and usually cover tuition costs as well as additional expenses like transport, books, food, accommodation, etc. Direct Student Loans should not be confused with uncertified student loans, which are regularly characterized as direct-to-consumer loans.

The main benefits of Direct Student Loans are following:

  • Low interest rates;
  • Student borrows money directly from the federal US government, without third-party lender such as bank or financial institution;
  • Borrower have the opportunity to choose from numerous repayment plans which can be switched at any time, if the borrower needs a change;
  • Borrower has online access to his or her Direct Student Loan account information via his servicer’s website.

As it was mentioned before, the lender of Direct Loans is the Department of Education. Before the passing of SAFRA (Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act) in 2010, federal loans for students could be offered as a part of the Direct Loan Program or the FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) program, but SAFRA basically eliminated FFEL Program, and now most federal student loans are offered through the Direct Loan Program.

The four main types of federal student loans are:

  • The Subsidized Stafford Loan
  • The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
  • The Direct Consolidation Loan
  • PLUS Loans

The Subsidized Stafford Loan

The Subsidized Stafford Loan is offered as a financial aid for students in who are proved to be in financial need, and it can be obtained without charge of interest during the time student is enrolled in school and during grace period and approved deferment periods after graduation.

The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan

Unsubsidized Loan is not based on student’s financial need. This loan option offers a choice to borrow of paying the interest while still is enrolled in college or university as well as during grace period and deferment period or can choose to accept for the interest to be added to the principal amount of his student loan.

For the both of the Stafford Loans student can apply via the completion of FAFSA.

The Direct Consolidation Loan

The Direct Consolidation Loan is category of loan which allows borrower to replace multiple student loans with just one. The Federal Direct Consolidation Student Loan Program lets borrower to consolidate most federal loans.

The Direct PLUS Loan

The Direct PLUS Loan is federal student loan for parents of the depending students intended to assist parents to pay for their child’s school expenses. To be eligible for the Direct PLUS Loan parent and student must meet certain requirements: must be the U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, parent must be the biological or adoptive parent, and in good standing with earlier loans and the student-depending child must be enrolled at least half-time at school participating in the Direct Loan Program.

Student loans provided under the Direct Loan Program will also require that applicants sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) that will serve as a guarantee of their ability to repay the loan.

To sum up, the Direct Student Loans are federal education loans offered by the US Department of Education. Therefore, loan comes directly from the federal government, without involvement of third-party lenders like banks or financial institutions.

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