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For all students, the process of application for the federal financial aid starts with the FAFSA that stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Every student can complete this form no matter what type of aid they wish to receive. This is the first step that sends your information to the general program that evaluates your financial status and, then, offers you one of the several aid options. This application is used by most US colleges and universities. 

The information gathered by the form is sent straight to the Department of Education that calculates your Expected Family Contribution which should be less than the cost of studies for a student to get financial help from the government. 

The form can be easily found on the official website of the Department of Education and completed online. The process is fast and as applicant-friendly as possible. A few issues may arise during the process though a general step-by-step guide simplifies the matter. In case of any questions, the FAFSA phone number can be found on the official website. 

How to Apply

The FAFSA form is standard for all students and establishments and it can be found online. Every college that participates in the program provides its students with the form either in paper or its electronic form. The Department of Education also offers it for free on its website and directs applicants straight to the form page so students can apply for the FAFSA online.

Students who are going to complete the form online should obtain an FSA ID to sign it. Dependent students should also get their parents to sign the form using their FSA ID. Creating an account is easy and it will serve as a pass to the program myStudentAid, to sign contracts, FAFSA loans, and so on. Be sure to provide the exact same name and Social Security Number as your documents and FAFSA have. Later, fafsa.gov, a website where students fill in the form, asks to provide the ID and identifiers. Then you are sent to a FAFSA sign in page. When logging in the website with the help of ID, students get parts of the form with their personal information already filled in. 

Before completing the application, it is recommended to gather a set of documents that may be used in the process. Such papers include a Social Security number, a driver’s license, federal tax information, account balances and savings, all records of income. In exceptional cases, some additional documents may be required later. These papers are not for mailing alongside the application though their information is mentioned there. 

The information asked by the form is standard. However, those students who face certain issues in the process can ask for help from their school administration or use online tools provided by the form itself. In case a problem is not solved, both the form and the website contain the FAFSA Contact Us information to mail the detailed problem. 

Once opened, the form can be temporarily saved for later notice, even when filled in partially. A student can create a Save Key and use it to open the form from any device. 

The “Schools” point requires a list of schools a student is going to apply to. Up to 10 establishments can be included while none will see the other options in the form. 

Financial information is one of the key factors of the FAFSA. Providing genuine and up-to-date information is necessary for the right estimation of a student’s financial status. 

Another important aspect is determining the student dependency status and providing the right information about parents including their marital status, tax information, and financial status. 

A successfully submitted form leads applicants to a confirmation page that indicates the final step of the process presented by an incoming email with the detailed confirmation status which can be later checked with the help of FAFSA login. 

Eligibility and Deadlines

Though most American students complete FAFSA and hope to get financial aid, not all of them are eligible in the first place. To be sure in the positive answer, it is necessary to check your eligibility status beforehand.

All students applying for federal financial aid should meet certain requirements as well as ask “when is FAFSA due?”

First of all, considering the need-based principle of the aid, all applicants have to prove their lack of finances for studying. 

Second of all, there’s a list of general requirements. Students have to: 

• Be citizens of the USA/have a green card/have a T visa.

• Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate.

• Be enrolled in a program as a student seeking an educational degree.

• Have a valid Social Security number.

• Maintain satisfactory academic results.

• Be registered in the Selective Service system (for males).

• Not have a previous federal loan or grant.

Depending on each financial aid type, other requirements may apply. 

It’s recommended to complete it long before the FAFSA deadline to have better chances to get money. The application process begins as early as October 1 and lasts till July 1. Students should also check with the deadlines of their university as well not to miss the aid in case the terms are not the same. 

The time the application needs to be processed should also be noted. After the processing period (about 7-10 days), students can check the status of their application by visiting the website fafsa.gov and entering their FAFSA ID or contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The first respond comes as a Student Aid Report that should be handed to the school administration that sends back an award letter stating the sum of money and type of aid a student is offered. The offer itself will come from the establishment where a student is enrolled. To accept an offer, check with the establishment’s administration office. 

International Students

Federal Student Aid is available only to the citizens of the US and a few other eligible non-citizen groups that include the holders of a “green card,” parolees, refugees, Cuban-Haitian entrants, etc. 

In case of the regular student visa, foreigners cannot receive financial aid form the US government. However, there is a common practice among higher educational establishments to require the application as a standard set of documents. That is done in order to have a full report of the financial status of each student that can be later used to grant financial aid by the establishment itself. It can be achieved if a student supplies a social security number and checks in questions 15-16 that they are not a citizen of the US. Though they won’t get any aid, the information is still free and can be acquired by an institution as the base for the local aid of its own. 

In other case, foreign student shouldn’t bother with the question “what is FAFSA?” and, instead, take a look at the private loans and grants they may apply for.