It’s FAFSA Season!
Today is October 1, which means it’s that time of year again. (And no, I’m not talking about Pumpkin-Spice Lattes and Halloween masks.) It’s FAFSA Season!
On the first of October each year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid goes live for the upcoming school year. That means if you plan to be in college during the 2020-2021 school year, your application for aid starts now! While, technically, you have until the end of the aid year to apply (to receive aid in the 2020-2021 school year, the final deadline to fill out your FAFSA is June 30, 2021) it’s always best to apply as early as possible to increase your chances at a strong package of federal grants, work-study awards, and loans. Keep in mind, even if you’re not sure you will be eligible for federal student aid, many schools use the FAFSA to determine state-based and institutional aid as well, so everyone should fill out the FAFSA each year of attendance.
The FAFSA is the only way you can tap into the federal aid that is put aside to assist students in paying for school. Generally, there are three main types of federal aid:
- Grants: This is the money you want. Grants are financial awards that do not have to be repaid! Think of grants as a federal scholarship. Federal Pell Grants max out at $ $6,195 and take into consideration your EFC or Expected Family Contribution, as well as other factors. Keep in mind, if you withdraw from school, you would be responsible for repaying any grant money used. For more information on the different grants available, check this one pager from the U.S. Department of Education
- Work-Study: This program provides part-time jobs on or off-campus, allowing students with financial need to earn money during the school year towards their education expenses. Hourly rates and the amount of hours you work per week will vary based on the specific positions available at your school, your level of financial need, and your course schedule. At a maximum, you can’t work more hours than the total of your work-study award.
- Loans: These are loans from the government that you can use for schooling. However, these must be paid back after you complete your degree. Loans can be subsidized (these DO NOT accrue interest while you’re in school) or unsubsidized (these DO accrue interest while you’re in school). It’s important to consider your need, the interest rate, and your ability to pay the loan back during school or after you graduate before taking out a loan. For more information on Federal Student Loans, check out their one-pager here.
The FAFSA requires a decent amount of information – you’re going to need to gather some paperwork before you get started. In general, your federal tax returns from the most recent year will have much of the information required to fill out your FAFSA. If you’re interested in getting a glimpse at what you might be eligible for, and what you need in order to apply, check out the FAFSA4caster – a tool created to help families estimate the amount of Financial Aid they may be eligible for. This isn’t a guarantee, but can give you an idea of what you can expect. Remember, you won’t find out what federal aid you were approved for until you receive your financial award package from the schools you were accepted at.
Bottom line, going to college is expensive. Here at Vielka Hoy Consulting, we want our students to graduate college on-time and with as little debt as possible. The FAFSA is just one of many ways to ensure you have the best chance at achieving that goal, so apply early but don’t forget to continue researching grants, scholarships, and other ways to get funded. You’ll thank yourself later.
Have more questions about the FAFSA and Financial Aid? Leave a comment here or send us a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.