The US Dept of Education awards $150 billion per year in grants, work-study, and low-interest student loans. Federal student aid covers expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, textbooks, and related school supplies. Each student’s financial need is re-assessed yearly, and the financial aid award may be re-adjusted. Surprisingly, first-tier colleges and universities tend to offer the greatest savings for students, due to their enormous endowments.
To begin the search for financial aid, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA form, the federal student aid application. Please note that financial aid deadlines are strict, so be certain to submit your scholarship and loan applications early for the best chances of obtaining all available financial aid. It’s a fact that literally millions of students that would have qualified for some financial aid didn’t even apply for it, or perhaps were late submitting required forms. The official FAFSA website is fafsa.ed.gov. Other websites imitate the FAFSA site, but are deliberately misleading, and may charge fees, as well as sell your personal data online to marketing agencies. Further, each college and university has its own formula for determining levels of financial need, so parents must keep financial records for at least three years, including tax forms and any business records. The earliest that the FAFSA form can be filled out is January of the senior year in high school. In contrast, the CSS Profile can be filled out much earlier, as soon as the start of fall term.
Many parents make errors when filling out the FAFSA, including forgetting to click the ‘submit’ button when finished, leaving out some fields instead of entering a zero, or incorrectly copying their social security number. Estimated tax data can be used to fill out the FAFSA, provided the information is updated later, when taxes are actually filed. Various financial aid calculators are listed below, to help you determine financial aid eligibility, and loan repayment schedules.