February 28, 2011
What happens after the FAFSA?
It’s the last day of February, and hopefully a lot of you have already filed your FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – which is the gateway to all things financial aid. If you haven’t yet filed, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov right away and get started on the 2011-2012 FAFSA. It’s very important!
If you have already submitted it and are wondering what to do now, here’s some advice:
1. Check it out. Check your college’s financial aid webpage for any other forms you need to submit, and check your college email account to see if they’ve sent you instructions. Many schools require an additional one- or two-page form before they will process your FAFSA information.
2. Keep it together. About 30% of FAFSA-filers nationwide will be chosen for a process called “verification,” where the college you attend asks for more information so they can double-check your FAFSA for errors. They will usually contact you via official school email or by mail. You should have a folder with signed copies of federal tax forms (for both you and your parents) and W-2 forms for both you and your parents. Your school may ask you for additional information, so be ready to provide anything else that you used to file your FAFSA – this could include bank statements, documentation of assets, documentation of family size, etc. If you are selected for verification, make sure you provide everything requested promptly! Delays on your part will result in your financial aid being delayed.
3. Keep it coming! After you’ve got all the required forms filled out, you will receive an award letter from your school. If you’ve applied to several different schools, you should get an award letter from each of them. The award letter will break down your financial aid package and tell you if you qualify for work-study, grants, scholarships, and student loans. It will also tell you how much money you are eligible to receive in each category. At that point, it is YOUR responsibility to decide which school you are going to attend (if you have not already done so), and notify the schools what awards you are going to accept and which ones you will decline (if any). Remember, you can ask for partial awards! For instance, if you qualify for $3,500 in student loans but you only need to borrow $1,000, you can just elect to borrow a reduced amount. You aren’t obligated to borrow unwisely! Only take what you really need.
If you have any questions along the way, contact the financial aid office at your school. They will be able to help you with any specific questions! Good luck!Posted by: Sumiko