FAFSA Student Benefit Changes

Changes to FAFSA You Need to Know

You’ve finally graduated, and excited looking at colleges available to you to pursue your career.  You’re all grown up, and life seems to be going your way.  The last thing you’re thinking about is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

Honestly, it should be the first.

Here’s a brief update about changes to the FAFASA application that you need to be aware of.  These have already gone into effect for the 2017-2018 academic year.

fsfsa-updateFirst, the application timeline for processing has changed.  Until this year, students had to wait until January 1st to apply.  Now, you can begin as early as October 1st, affording you 3 extra months to apply.

FAFSA will now cite the tax year 2015 as opposed to 2016 since the process starts in October.  This is known as PPY, or “prior-prior year policy”.  The advantage here is that students no longer need to wait for their parents to file income taxes for the current year, before filling out their application.

Applications can come in earlier for the financial aid offices, and students will be able to know all.

It’s First Come, First Served With Federal Aid

Remember much of the financial aid given using your FAFSA information is given on a first come, first serve basis.  This is why this new information is important to students.  Instead of having to wait for income tax filing with their parents, they can apply the first of October, thus having a chance of gaining larger benefits.

More Time to Plan and Choose

For high school seniors, this is great as they now have the ability to see their financial aid packages before choosing a college, thus giving them more ability to shop around to see who’s offering the best deals at each college.

But remember it is still up to the colleges to send their award offer in time.  Although FAFSA moved up it’s deadline, some colleges may not follow suit.

“If institutions decide to [offer packages to] students earlier, it will benefit students,” said Som Chatterjee, the Senior Associate Director of Student Financial Aid at Florida State University. “That is especially so for incoming students who will now have additional time to evaluate their financial aid packages and make better-informed decisions.”

Some students have concerns about their parents financial situations changing during the year, but as it turns out, there is a solution for that also.

Chatterjee explained, “Just like in previous years, students who have had an income change can submit documentation substantiating their change of income for review by the Financial Aid office.”

“If approved, adjustments can be made so that the information on their financial aid application (FAFSA) matches the current financial aid situation.”

Every Student Should Take Advantage

As its name implies, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is free.  Every student that wants to pursue college should fill one out, as there is nothing to lose but a whole lot to gain.  It was reported, in the 2013-2014 academic year alone, there was a staggering $2.9 billion in unused federal grant money.

FAFSA – Getting Started

To get started, you simply need to visit fafsa.ed.gov and fill out an application.  Most high schools offer applications, if you’re a graduating senior.

Up until 2015, FSFSA required a 4 digit pin number.  Now they assign a FSA ID for greater security, and you no longer have to put your social security number or date of birth in at each login.  So if your new, you’ll need to create an FSA ID.

For returning students, you’ll still need to update the application each early to receive benefits, so keep your FSA ID handy in a safe place.

Have your required paperwork ready:  social security number, driver’s license, federal tax returns, W-2 forms, bank and investment statements from both you and your parents.  Use caution and make sure you select the correct academic year.

Although deadlines for filing vary for different student loan and federal grant programs, you must submit your FAFSA by June 30th.

Most awards are offered in the spring, but some schools seeking to lure early enrollees might begin sending them before the Christmas holidays.  Regardless, after getting accepted to the college, you will receive your awards from that school.

Bottom Line?

Think about it, student loan debt can add up fast.  Be sure to take full advantage of FAFSA to avoid the burden of having to pay off high student loans after college graduation.

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