Guess what day it is...
Yes… it is Monday, but more importantly, it's October 1st! Today is the first day you can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or best known as, FAFSA.
FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for ALL federal financial aid. This includes the stuff you have to pay back (loans), the stuff you have to work for (work-study), as well as the really good stuff like grants and scholarships (which you don’t have to pay back!). So, before you take out that student loan and join over 44 MILLION Americans who are working to pay back almost 1.5 trillion in student loans, fill out your FAFSA!
First things first...BE FIRST
While you may not always be the first to arrive in class, you do want to be early for this. In most states (Florida included), financial aid works on a first come, first serve basis. So filing early could be the difference in receiving a grant and/or scholarship, and being saddled with student loan debt.
The FAFSA will allow you to enter up to 10 schools on your application. While you don't have to be accepted to every university you add, it is important to consider specific state guidelines when listing a university. For instance, in Florida, in order to be considered for state grant aid, you must list an eligible in-state university. You can certainly change your mind down the road, but it is important to know all of the options available to you when it comes to paying for school.
If you’re in high school and live at home, you’re most likely considered a dependent, which means you'll need to sit down with them or have them fill this section out. Keep in mind that even if you live on your own and support yourself, you still may be considered a dependent for the purposes of the FAFSA. Be sure to review the guidelines and determine what category best describes you.
Personal & Financial Information
Now, for the fun part. To complete the FAFSA, you'll have to spend some time entering data. Information like your social security and driver’s license numbers will be required. In addition, dependent students also have to enter their parents’ tax return info from last year. If you're an independent student, you will enter your own information for income and FAFSA will determine your aid eligibility based on that.
When filling out your FAFSA online, make sure you do it over a secure Internet connection.
In other words, don’t use public Wi-Fi. Public places, and open connections are much more vulnerable to hackers. Sharing personal information over an unprotected Wi-Fi connection could lead to identity theft and put you and others in financial jeopardy.