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Why October is an Important Month for College Financial Aid

college financial aid

Most full-time students rely on some form of college financial aid to pay for their education.

According to the College Board, about two-thirds cover at least part of the cost for college with grants and scholarships. Among those financial aid dollars, about 57 percent are in the form of grants and 34 percent were federal loans.

But, for students to qualify for college financial aid, they’ll need to fill out some very important paperwork  -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. And if you or your child is headed to college next year, you’ll want to start filling out that application as soon as it opens.

Here are 7 things you need to know about the FAFSA

When is the FAFSA form available for the upcoming school year?

October 1. Financial aid experts recommend that students and families fill out the form as soon as possible to meet various FAFSA deadlines and to be considered for college financial aid.

Is the FAFSA just for federal college financial aid?

Nope. A completed FAFSA will put students in the running for federal grants, work-study programs and loans. But it also could be a requirement to snag assistance from states, schools and private groups.

Why do I need to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible?

It’s true that, for instance, the window to fill out the form to qualify for federal student aid runs from Oct. 1 to June 30, 2020, for the 2019-20 school year. But it’s also important to note that some federal programs have limited funds, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and money can run out.

State and college financial aid programs also may have limited funds -- and earlier deadlines. So, it’s best to fill out the form as soon as you can to ensure you’re in the running for whatever money is available.

To get details on state deadlines, the federal education department’s website has more information. Check in with the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re interested in for specifics about their requirements.

What kind of federal assistance could I qualify for?

There are three kinds of college financial aid

  • Grants, which don’t need to be repaid.
  • Loans, which you borrow and must repay with interest.
  • Work-study, which is a federal program that matches students with jobs, so they can earn money to help pay for their education.

FAFSA’s website spells out the different kind of grants and loans.

I filled out the FAFSA last year before my child’s freshmen year in college. Do I have to fill it out again?

You do. You’ll need to submit the FAFSA form every year your child is in college and needs financial aid. The FAFSA website has more information about remaining eligible for aid throughout your child’s college career.

What do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

You’ll need to collect some paperwork to fill out the form. The list includes your social security number or alien registration number, if you’re not a U.S. citizen; your federal income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned; bank statements and records of investments; and any records of untaxed income.

How do I fill out the FAFSA form?

It all happens online. Before you can fill out the form, you’ll need to get your FSA ID. From there, you’ll want to be sure to gather all your personal and financial documents, so you can get to work on the actual form. The education department’s blog spells out the eight steps to fill out the FAFSA form, starting with obtaining your FSA ID. It also lists the 12 common mistakes people make as they complete the paperwork.

Deadlines and paperwork can pile up when you’re applying to college. But, if you know you’ll need college financial aid, a completed FAFSA form is vital to ensure you can afford that education.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. ​Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.

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