Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Do I Get Financial Aid for School?

It's that time of year to file for Financial Aid or as the insiders refer to it FAFSA (Federal Student Aid).  Even if you don't start school until next fall, you need to file now in order to receive grants, work-study money and student loans.  Also, FAFSA isn't just for four year colleges, you can apply for aid if you are planning to attend a community or junior college, technical school, or a certification program.

There are three ways to apply for aid.  If you are a minor (under 18) and not living with your parents you can apply as an emancipated minor and can immediately apply for aid.  If you are an adult and you support yourself, get your personal taxes filed as soon as possible, tax info has to be verified by the IRS to receive aid. If you are still living at home and are a dependent of you parents, your parents need to file their taxes ASAP.  The good thing is, if you owe money, you don't have to pay it until April 15th, you just have to have your return filed.

Now you are ready to either have someone prepare your FAFSA for you, for a charge of course, or fill out the form yourself.  Since you're applying for financial aid, why would you want to spend money to receive it?

You will need to have the following information to fill out the form

  • Social Security Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Military Service Information
  • Bank and Savings Account Balances
  • Investment Worth Information, including Real Estate, but not your primary residence
  • The name or names of schools you are thinking of attending (FAFSA informs the schools and they sometimes will contribute to the aid as well, especially if you are attending a state school) Use the School Code Search to make sure FAFSA has the correct school.
  • Yours or your parent's tax return (specific information is required on the FAFSA form, luckily they tell you which line on the tax return to use, see the side bar comments on the online form)
Sometimes filling out the tax part of the form can be a little confusing.  If you have a job, but you are not supporting yourself, make sure you fill out your parents tax information.  If you have a job, but don't make enough to file, you have that option on the form, then you can input your wages.  If you make enough money to support yourself, and you make less money than your parents, enter your tax information, not your parents, in fact you don't even need to put in any information about your parents, if this is the case.
    For you guys out there (18 to 25 years old), you also need to register for Selective Service (otherwise known as the Draft).
    Under current law, all male U.S. citizens are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In addition, foreign males between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the United States must register. This includes permanent residents (holders of Green Cards), refugees, asylees, dual citizens, and illegal aliens.
    Now I know this sounds kind of scary, but the likelihood of you being drafted is pretty low for the foreseeable future.  It is very unpopular politically and most legislators want to keep their jobs, so don't worry about it.   Registering also makes you eligible for federal jobs and federal job training, so it's worth doing.
    Click here to register online with the Selective Service System.

    One other thing you will need to do before you can file your FAFSA is request a signature PIN.  This allows you to sign your application online without having to snail mail in a written signature.   Apply here for a PIN.  You will need
    • Your Social Security Number
    • Date of Birth
    • Your Email Address
    • Your Mailing Address
    The PIN site will have you pick a security question and you can either pick your own PIN or they will assign you one (they will mail it to you).  Write this PIN number down in a safe place because you will use it every year you apply for FAFSA.

    So now you are ready to file! After you have filed and signed you application you will receive notice from FAFSA and the school you applied to about your financial aid options, you can choose the ones that you want and the information will be sent to your school.  After you register for classes money will be payed directly to the school.  You may need to go to the financial aid office at your school the first year just to make sure everything goes smoothly.  Once you have applied for FAFSA the government sends you a reminder each January to reapply for the coming school year and most of your information will be saved from year to year.

    Just a word of advice, if you can live without going away to school, you can save a lot of money by living at home with your parents.  The highest cost of College is Room and Board and that's generally what Student Loan money covers.  If you can get by without the loans, you'll be better off because reneging on a Federal Loan is not an option and paying off an Ivy League English degree will probably take you the rest of your life.

    1 comment:

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