Getting Ready for the 2010 FAFSA

fafsa logoAnother spring semester is about to start. We are half-way through the school year, which means we are half-way to summer break. It also means that it is almost time to start filling out those FAFSA forms for next year.

What is the FAFSA? The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Students who demonstrate significant financial aid, based off their income levels and amount of money their family can be expected to contribute, can apply. The FAFSA must be reapplied for each year, but there is not a limit to how many times a student can apply for federal aid. Students can fill out the FAFSA form online or by mailing in their application to the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

The FAFSA can greatly decrease the amount of money that students must pay for their college education. In the past, it was a great ordeal to fill out the extensive application; however, in 2009, the FAFSA received a makeover. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan revised the form to make it more “user-friendly” and greatly decreased the number of questions involved in filling out the form. (There were over 150 questions on the older form.) The goal of revising the FAFSA was to encourage more students to apply for federal aid.

For students who want to apply for the FAFSA for the 2010-2011 school year, the deadline for online submission is June 30, 2010. However, schools must have students’ applications for the next school year or semester by the schools’ final enrollment date. So, if the final date for applying for the fall semester at your school is April 30, 2010, you must have submitted your FAFSA results to your school by that date.

When you apply for the FAFSA, make sure you have the following documents on hand:
1.    Your social security card
2.    Your parents’ social security cards, if you are a dependent
3.    Your driver’s license
4.    Your previous year’s tax documents
5.    Information concerning any untaxed income

After January, the FAFSA office can get bogged down with applications and it can take longer to get your results back. The sooner you fill out the FAFSA form and apply for federal aid, the better. Try to have at least one hour to devote to the application process, but if you don’t finish with one try, the website allows you to save your application and come back to it at another time.

Although the FAFSA qualifies many students for federal aid, it is not the end-all-be-all of college funding. So, don’t forget to apply for other scholarships or loans to make paying for the next school year easier.

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