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FAFSA Application Guidelines

Updated on March 7, 2013

Navigating the Financial Aid Process Beginning with the FAFSA

The financial aid process can be confusing for many. This lens is devoted to sharing information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the first important step in the financial aid application process.

Financial Aid $ense
Financial Aid $ense

Applying for College Financial Aid

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

January is the time of year that college-bound seniors and their parents need to think about filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA, as the names states, is a FREE application and one which everyone should file. Students cannot be evaluated for federal need-based financial aid funds (including grants, loans and work programs) unless a FAFSA is filed, thus it is recommend that everyone file the FAFSA, even if you are unsure about your eligibility. I recommended filing the FAFSA online by visiting the Federal Student Aid site to file the FAFSA at ~ the online process is the quickest and most streamlined of the filing options available.

In order to file a FAFSA, both the parent(s) AND the student MUST first request a "PIN" number which you can do on the Federal Student Aid site that I provided in this article. Parents and students both need to request their own pin number ~ your PIN can be used each year to electronically apply for federal student aid and to access your Federal Student Aid records online in the future. After both a parent and the student have a PIN, then you are ready to complete the FAFSA, which you should complete by February 15th in order to meet priority filing deadlines.

The FAFSA is in the student's name and social security number and requires that the student share income and asset information, demographic information, and the colleges they are interested in attending. In addition, parents will need to share their income and asset information. To help you better prepare for completing the FAFSA, there is a document check list on the FAFSA site provided above. Some of the key documents to have available include final pay stubs, completed tax returns, bank statements, and any other information pertaining to income sources during the previous calendar year.

Many families are not able to complete their tax returns prior to the February 15th deadline. Not to worry, a family can estimate their income on the FAFSA form (use your final pay stub of the year as a resource) in order to meet the deadline. After filing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is essentially a confirmation and a summary of what you reported on the FAFSA. The SAR can also be used to note any corrections to the information that you originally provided (such as after you complete your taxes you can note any changes on the SAR and resubmit for processing).

The key is to apply for financial aid and the first step being to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA is a standard form which utilizes a formula to analyze a family's income and asset information to then determine their ability to pay for college. One thing is for sure, without submitting a FAFSA, a college cannot review a student for need-based federal financial aid funds, so it is recommended that everyone complete a FAFSA ~ the first step in the financial aid process.

PLEASE be sure though that when you compete the FAFSA you go to the correct website to do so, link is below. You should go to Federal Student Aid site at I mention this as their is a fafsa dot com site out there as well that actually comes up first in a google search due to their paid advertising on google. This fafsa dot com site charges people for assistance completing the FAFSA. People do not need to pay for the FAFSA. Although it does take some time to file the FAFSA, everyone can do it themselves as long as you reserve some time, remain patient and focused, and have your financial records handy to assist you. Remember, is where you want to be!


Use only the Website

As the name indicates, the FAFSA is a FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. One should visit the website in order to get there PIN number and complete the FAFSA, all done for FREE. There are other .com sites out there that will charge a person for completing the FAFSA - please do not make this mistake. These .com sites still require families to data enter their information but will then charge them upon submitting the information. All that these sites do is charge families for submitting the info to the Department of Education. Families can do this themselves from the site directly. Please do NOT mistake sites for the official FAFSA site at

Financial Aid Sense: A Practical Guide

This insightful guide helps families navigate through the very confusing financial aid process. This guide equips families with the tools that they need to stay on track, organized, and in the know!!!! There is an entire chapter devoted to each piece of the college financial aid application process with handy checklists and templates available to keep one organized throughout the process!

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