Things to know about federal aid

January 15, 2013

This is the time of year where current and prospective students need to start thinking seriously about what they want to be doing academically in the fall. The process to apply for financial aid can be exhausting but essential for ongoing educational sustainability, but getting enough scholarship funds to support this goal can be difficult if students wait until this window of opportunity has passed.

The Federal Application for Federal Student Aid program, or FAFSA, provides many students with the financial assistance to manage their college costs and keep pursuing academic opportunities. Without these options, it might be difficult for some students to remain in school.

In The Capital reported that filing a tax return is the first step in filling out FAFSA awards, since these decisions rely largely on how much a person or family made the year before. Students who still reside with one or both parents have to include income each parent made the previous year, making it essential that these tax forms be completed and submitted before students pursue federal financial assistance.

Trying to gain the advantage
However, even those students that feel their income is too high for federal aid should fill out these forms, according to Marilyn van Loben Sels, a college finance counselor.

"We are always on a mission of stressing the importance of everyone filling out the FAFSA," she told the Sacramento Bee. That's because the result of these scholarship applications can affect the amount of aid available for students, the source reported, as these results and awards can trigger other scholarship grants.

Even for incoming and first-time college students who may not know what school they will wind up attending, van Loben Sels stressed that it was essential people put their applications through as soon as possible. While the FAFSA is a need-based program, those that submit requests earlier may get receive more aid, while those who apply at the last second will likely see less favorable outcomes. What's more, even in a situation where eventual attendance is uncertain, students should fill in school information for the institutions they're most probably going to attend, up to 10 of which can be considered.

Mark Kantrowitz wrote for the New York Times that another important detail about FAFSA deadlines is that they're different in every state. Some people who wait until March will miss their submission date, cheating themselves out of valuable money for college.

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