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January 7, 2012
 

January means filling out a FAFSA and seeking college tuition aid

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It’s that frantic time of year when parents are searching for money needed to fund their student’s college education.

Relax, take a deep breath!

Thousands of parents have gone through the process and have survived. Although it seems complicated, if you gather the needed information before you start, read and follow instructions on the financial aid application you will succeed without much stress.

The granddaddy of all financial aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal government uses the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal assistance in the form of scholarships, grants and loans. You can complete a FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov .

Parents and students are EXPECTED to contribute to the student’s college education. Using the information you supply on the FAFSA, the federal processor determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Once you complete the FAFSA and your EFC is determined, it is automatically sent to the colleges you have selected.

Most schools base their financial aid package on the FAFSA. When received, the colleges try to satisfy the financial need of the student. They subtract the EFC from the Cost of Attendance (COA), which includes tuition, fees, room and board etc. This financial need package consists of federal, state, institutional and private sources as well as loans and student employment.

Whatever your financial status, everyone is entitled to and should complete a FAFSA. When answering the question asking about your interest in different types of aid (e.g. work-study and student loans) answer “yes” to each question. Answering “yes” does not obligate you to accept; answering “no” will not get you more grant aid. It does increase your options.

Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1. Many schools have limited funds so the earlier you apply the better your chances for receiving aid. Always, always be aware of the chosen college’s financial aid deadlines! Not submitting the FAFSA or completing the college application on time is one of the major reasons students lose funding.

When filling out the FAFSA there are several things you need to know. The “you” and “your” always refer to the student not the parents. Only use your legal name as it appears on your social security card. Nicknames or alias will only delay the process. Remember to count yourself, the student, as part of the household number.

Do not make these frequent mistakes when filling out the FAFSA. It will delay your application.

  • Both parents and students must use the 1040 federal tax form NOT the W-2.
  • Don’t forget to report all untaxed income such as social security, child support, Aid to Dependent Children and all outside scholarships and grants.
  • Be sure to include your stepparent’s information.
  • Don’t forget to sign the application. While applying online you will be asked to select a PIN number. It will be used in place of your signature.
  • Remember to file on time. The California deadline is March 2. The earliest you can file is Jan 1.

Each state has its own grants.

In California this grant is known as a Cal Grant. According to www.CalGrants.org, students can receive up to $12,192 each year. To receive a Cal Grant you must complete and yearly submit two forms by March 2: the FAFSA and the Cal Grant Verification Form. Your school completes the Verification form but you should confirm with your school counselor this form has been sent.

Just remember, although financial aid and the FAFSA can be daunting, patience and perseverance will get you through this process.

Information for this article was collected from www.fastweb.com a website dedicated to assisting and advising college-bound students.

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About the Author

Margene Walz
Margene Walz is an Athletic and Academic Counselor for Quest College Counseling located in Los Alamitos. For more information call 562-280-0460.



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