FAFSA – It only looks like rocket science

Applying for financial aid is so important, and for those parents and teens that keep hearing about “FAFSA” and aren’t completely sure what it means or why it’s important, here’s a few answers to some FAFSA questions!

What does FAFSA stand for?

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is a federal financial aid option for college students as well as the first step in getting federal, state, and private financial aid.

Why is FAFSA Important?

The FAFSA is required for all federal aid, and is often required for most state and college aid as well. The amount of aid you receive from the government (a Federal Pell Grant) is calculated by the information you provide on your FAFSA.

The FAFSA is sometimes required for some programs other than government or school aid.

For instance, you can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant — and you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA. If the private scholarship’s application deadline is in early to mid-January, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA before that deadline.

How do I apply for financial aid?

The first step in applying for most federal, state, and private aid is to fill out the FAFSA.

You can complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov. (The FAFSA is required for all federal aid.)

The application for New York State aid can be found at www.hesc.ny.gov. (The FAFSA is also required to apply for state aid!)

When do I apply for aid and why should I complete my FAFSA ASAP?

You typically submit an initial FAFSA at the beginning of your senior year in high school (after January 1 and before June 30 in the year you plan to attend). Each school year thereafter, you must send in a FAFSA renewal outlining your current financial condition. You must send in your renewal to be be eligible for federal student aid (and, possibly state aid as well) for the particular year.

You can apply for financial aid even before you’ve been accepted to a college. Students filling out a FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year were able to file a FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016.

It’s important to fill out a FAFSA ASAP! There are a few federal, state, and private student aid programs that have limited funds that are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. To better your chances of receiving those funds, apply as soon as you can once the FAFSA is available for the year you’ll be attending school.

When is the FAFSA available to me?

The 2016–2017 FAFSA has been available since January 1, 2016, and the 2017–2018 FAFSA has been available since October 1, 2016. Visit www.fafsa.gov to begin!

What are the FAFSA Deadlines?

FAFSA FEDERAL AID DEADLINES:
For the 2017–18 year, you can apply between Oct. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018.
For the 2016–17 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

FAFSA NEW YORK STATE DEADLINES:
For the 2017–18 year, you can apply between Oct. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018
For the 2016–17 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

FAFSA COLLEGE or CAREER SCHOOL AID:
Check the school’s website or contact its financial aid office. School deadlines are usually early in the year (often in February or March, although some may be even earlier now that the FAFSA is available in October).

Where can I find help filling out my FAFSA?

College Goal NY

College Goal NY FAFSA Completion Events are set to take place during the months of October 2016 – February 2017 to help college-bound students complete the most important tool in securing financial aid, the FAFSA.
Click here to find a College Goal NY FAFSA Completion Event Near You:

BCNY’s Department of Educational Services (DES)

Contact BCNY’s DES by emailing des@bcny.org.

Still confused? Visit www.understandingfafsa.org to learn more!

FAFSA Glossary and Definitions

Pell Grant: A Pell Grant is money the government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Eligible students receive a specified amount each year under this program.

EFC (Expected Family Contribution):  The FAFSA is used to calculate your EFC. Your EFC is then used to determine your eligibility for numerous other need-based aid programs, including other federal programs, state-based programs, and college-based aid. The lower your EFC, the better your chances for financial aid.

SAR (Student Aid Report): Students receive an SAR a few weeks after they submit their FAFSA. The SAR gives you a chance to correct, change, or fine-tune the answers you provided in your FAFSA. The SAR also notes your EFC. If your financial situation has materially changed since you originally applied — whether it has improved or worsened — you’re required to update your information and send it back to the government so that it can generate a new EFC and possibly adjust your Pell Grant amount.

FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant): Those with particularly low EFCs may be eligible for an FSEOG. Unlike Pell Grants, which are guaranteed to be available to all eligible students by the U.S. government, FSEOG money is limited on a most-needed, first-come-first-served basis. (SO APPLY EARLY!) Not all colleges participate in the FSEOG program. Find out well ahead of aid deadlines whether each college on your wish list offers FSEOG money.

Consolidation loans: Consolidation loans help students (and parents) streamline college loans by combining several types of loans — sometimes even if they have different re-payment schedules — into one, easy-to-understand, and (hopefully) easy-to-repay loan.

Federal Perkins Loans: Campus-based, Federal Perkins Loans are low-interest loans that are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates can borrow up to $4,000 for each year of undergraduate study, and graduate students can borrow up to $6,000 per year.

Federal Work-Study: This campus-based program provides on-campus jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated financial need. Ideally, your college tries to find you a job that’s related to your academic program.

PLUS Loans: PLUS Loans are loans to parents, and these loans come in two varieties: Direct PLUS Loans and FFEL PLUS Loans. PLUS Loans let parents who have a good credit history borrow enough money to pay the education expenses of their dependent children.

Stafford Loans: Stafford Loans (in the form of Direct Stafford Loans and FFEL Stafford Loans) are a major source of financial aid for students attending college. Stafford Loans are supposed to be repaid — although, sometimes, repayment can be postponed or, in certain cases, the entire loan can be completely discharged or cancelled.

What do I need to fill out my FAFSA?
  • Student’s social security number.
  • Parents’ social security number.
  • Parents’ dates of birth.
  • Student’s driver’s license number, if you have one.
  • Student’s Permanent Alien Registration Number, if not a U.S. citizen.
  • Copy of student’s most recent (2015)  Federal Income Tax Return.
  • Copy of parents’ most recent (2015) Federal Income Tax Return.
  • Records of student’s most recent (2015) untaxed income from the following sources of income:
    • Child support payments received in the student’s name
    • Interest income
    • Veterans non-education benefits
    • Social security benefits in the student’s name
  • Records of parents’ most recent (2015) untaxed income from the following sources of income:
    • Child support payments received in the student’s name; do not include foster care
    • Tax exempt interest incomeVeterans non-education benefits o such as disability, death pension, etc.
    • Untaxed portion of pension benefits; exclude rollovers
    • Untaxed payments to tax deferred pensions and retirement savings plans (on W-2)
    • Untaxed portion of IRA distributions; exclude rollovers
    • Untaxed portion of IRA deductions
    • Housing, food and other living allowances paid to members of the military, clergy & others
    • Other untaxed income, such as workers’ compensation & disability (not untaxed SS benefits)
  • FSA ID: For student and one parent.
  • Valid email address, if available.
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