Applying for Federal Student Aid doesn’t have to be hard
Are you one of the many college students or career school students who is seeking financial aid to help cover your tuition? You probably already know that the first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA. To help make the process easier, the American College for Medical Careers has compiled some frequently asked questions about completing your FAFSA. We hope these FAQs help to demystify the process.
Where do I get the FAFSA?
There is only one place to fill out the FAFSA, and that’s the Federal government’s website: https://fafsa.ed.gov/. There are some scammers and fake websites out there who may try to get you to pay money to fill out the FAFSA. Do not fall for these scams.
Do I apply before or after I apply to college/career school?
It is best to apply to schools first, and then submit the FAFSA, even if you’re still waiting for an acceptance letter. The FAFSA has a section that asks you to list the schools that you are considering. No more than 10 schools can be on your FAFSA at one time. There is a way to add a school to your FAFSA later, but it’s easier to list all the schools before you submit it.
How do I know if I am eligible?
The FAFSA website contains a list of Basic Eligibility Criteria. Make sure you check it before you begin the application process. Being eligible doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to get aid. It just means you are eligible to apply.
How do I get started?
Your first step will be to create your FSA ID. This ID will get you started on creating your own secure account. If you are a dependent, your parents will also need to create an FSA ID.
What documents do I need to apply?
The FAFSA application will ask a lot of questions about your finances, since the government is trying to determine whether you qualify for aid. It helps to gather up your documentation before you start applying. Gather these items for yourself and your parents (if you are a dependent):
- Social Security Number (SSN) (Or your Alien Registration Number if you are a non-U.S citizen)
- Driver’s license number (This is not required if you do not have a license)
- Federal tax returns, 1040 forms, W-2 information, and other income received
- Untaxed income records (like child support received or veterans’ non-educational benefits)
- Bank statements
- The names of schools where you have applied (no more than 10)
What happens after I submit my FAFSA?
After you submit your application, it should take about three weeks to get a report called the Student Aid Report. Be sure to check this report to make sure it doesn’t have any errors. If you find mistakes, read these instructions for making corrections to your SAR. The SAR will also be sent to the schools on your list.
At this point, you will simply wait to hear from the schools. The schools will contact you to let you know whether they can offer you an aid package. This will usually come in the form of a paper or electronic aid offer or “award letter.” If you’ve received award letters from more than one school, you should compare award offers to see what works best for you. It’s important that you understand exactly what you are being offered.
Will I have to pay back my student aid?
It depends, but in most cases, yes, you will need to pay back some or all of your aid. To know how much you are going to pay back, it’s important to understand the different types of student aid that may be offered. For example, grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back, but they are more competitive to get. Loans do need to be paid back, with interest. Some people recommend the 10% rule. That is, calculate 10% of what you think you can earn each month (pretax) once you complete your schooling. Be sure that your loan payments do not exceed 10% of this amount.
Still have questions?
The FAFSA’s Help page should be able to answer all your FAFSA-related questions. You might also want to try a video tutorial or these simple step-by-step instructions on Filling Out the FAFSA.
This guide was provided by the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, Florida. Our Financial Aid advisors are here to help our students with any questions they may have about FAFSA and student aid. Find out more about applying to ACMC here.