Understanding Federal Financial Aid and The FAFSA Part 2

Here are two popular savings calculators you might want to try out:

FAFSA4caster: The Federal Student Aid Website offers FAFSA4caster -- just look for it under the Thinking about College headline on the FAFSA website. The FAFSA4caster is for those just thinking about going to college. By providing some basic information, you’ll be provided an estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. The estimate will be shown in a College Cost Worksheet format so you can build a budget by providing your estimates of other student aid and savings you have to be put towards your college education.2 This site is for traditional students and adult learners alike.

StraighterLine’s College Savings Calculator: StraighterLine, an online educational provider that offers college level courses that can be transferred for credit to colleges and universities, offers a College Savings Calculator through its website. The calculator was designed to assist students in determining their eligibility for student financial aid programs as they move on to college, from grants, scholarships, to loans. It’s not a replacement for the FAFSA application, but it provides a good budgeting tool for those looking to make the move to college. It’s particularly useful for those who have existing college credits, or are looking to obtain college credits, and then transfer to a college or university.

What Types Of Information Will You Need To Fill Out The FAFSA?

After estimating your eligibility for financial aid and determining which colleges and universities you will be applying to, you are ready to fill out your FAFSA.

First, what you won’t need: money. You do not have to pay to submit a FAFSA and apply for federal financial aid. Nor do you have to pay for help with application issues. If you have issues or questions when filling out your FAFSA, you can get help from the financial aid office at the school you are planning on applying to, the US Department of Education at www.fafsa.gov (including online chat) or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Furthermore, there are 3 methods for completing and filing a FAFSA. You can apply online (the most efficient way) at www.fafsa.ed.gov, complete and mail a PDF FAFSA, or request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.3

In order to fill out the FAFSA, you will need access to records of income earned in the year prior to when you want to start school. If you are a dependent student, you will need records of your parent or guardian’s income information.

To get yourself ready to fill out the FAFSA, here is some of the information you will want to gather and have ready:

  • Your social security number
  • Your driver’s license
  • Your 2011 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your (and if married, your spouse’s) 2011 Federal Income Tax Return
  • Your 2011 untaxed income records
  • Your current bank statements
  • Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
  • Your alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)4

As you work through the FAFSA on the Web, keep in mind you can save your application and return to it later if you don’t have the information you need to answer any of the questions. Take your time. You want your information to be accurate.

2 Federal Student Aid, FAFSA4caster, 2012.

3 Federal Financial Aid, FAFSA Filing Options, 2012.

4 Federal Student Aid, What Documents Do I Need to Fill out a FAFSA, 2012.

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