Eighty-six percent. That’s the proportion of families that filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) last year, according to How America Pays for College, a 2017 study by Sallie Mae® and Ipsos. The number is at a 10-year high — and for good reason.
The FAFSA can give students access to $150 billion in grants, work-study funds and federal student loans. If you know students and families who want to apply, these tips can help.
File your application early
FAFSA applications can be submitted starting October 1. Federal financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to complete your application early. As an added bonus, an early application may mean you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) earlier. You may also get your financial aid award packages earlier too, depending on the school(s) you apply to.
Be sure to check your deadlines here to see if there are any restrictions for your state, federal or college deadlines.
Gather the right materials
You’ll need your family’s 2016 tax return to file your FAFSA as well as your Social Security and driver’s license number, your parents’ Social Security numbers and birth dates, W-2 forms, and bank statements.
Most times it takes applicants less than an hour to submit their FAFSA, so having these documents ready for when you and your family sit down to fill it out will make it quick and easy.
Apply, even if you think you might not qualify
Think your family’s income is too high for financial aid? Nearly every student is eligible for some form of financial assistance, regardless of income. So, apply!
Here are some financial aid myths Sallie Mae has already debunked:
Myth: My family’s income is too high to qualify for federal financial aid.
Fact: Student and family income isn’t the only factor that the government uses to decide if a student qualifies for federal financial aid.
Myth: My family has money saved for college so we won’t get any federal financial aid.
Fact: Savings might not be a major factor when a school decides if a student qualifies for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Myth: My sibling wasn’t eligible for much federal financial aid last year, so I won’t be eligible when I enter college.
Fact: Actually, the number of family members in college might have a favorable impact on your financial aid eligibility.
Myth: I’m only attending college part-time, so I won’t be eligible for federal financial aid.
Fact: Financial aid is available for part-time students. Talk to the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re interested in attending about aid for part-time students.
Remember, the “F” in FAFSA stands for free. The only site you should use to get a FSA ID and submit the FAFSA is FAFSA.gov.
In 2016, over $16 billion dollars were scammed from 15.4 million consumers, a 16 percent increase from 2015. The U.S. Department of Education shared these tips to share to prevent you from losing any money in the process:
- Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee – you can get free help to complete it from your financial aid office or from the Federal Student Aid Information Center
- If you are asked for your credit card or bank account information while filling out the FAFSA online, you are not at the official government site
- When in doubt, call 1-800-4-FED-AID or firstname.lastname@example.org
Get more details about the FAFSA at SallieMae.com/FAFSA.