Financial Aid: Apply for College Financial Aid (FAFSA)
You will need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This is a free form online (be sure to visit fafsa.ed.gov - note the .gov at the end). You will need to have your taxes. If under the age of 23 you will also need your parents' taxes (unless you are married, have a child, or are in the military).
Anyone under the age of 23 is considered a dependent and your family's income is taken into consideration even if you live on your own or support yourself. In some circumstances (if you have a child or are in the military for example), a college can make a professional judgment as to whether to consider you independent — thus qualifying you for more aid.
When filling out the FAFSA, list all universities or colleges you are considering. The aid does not "activate" unless you attend one of the schools listed, so adding any potential school you may attend can save you time in the long run and start the paperwork process while you are still exploring your options.
How to Fill Out the FAFSA
Pell Grants do not need to be repaid unless you withdraw or fail your classes. The Pell Grant maximum amount per year a student can qualify for is $5,815 (this amount is accurate until June of 2017). Whether you receive that maximum benefit depends on a few variables: full-time or part-time enrollment status, financial need, school costs, and how much of the academic year you will attend. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of Education at ed.gov/programs/fpg/.
Student Aid Report
After submitting the FAFSA you will receive a Student Aid Report that summarizes the information you filled out on your application. Review that information and be sure it is accurate. You'll receive your Student Aid Report through email if you provided one, or in the mail.
By the way, add FederalStudentAidFAFSA@cpsemail.ed.gov to your e-mail's contact list so your Student Aid Report arrives in your inbox, not the spam folder.
If you made a mistake on your Student Aid Report, visit studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update to receive information on how to correct it.
If your Student Aid Report is correct, then you are good to go.
Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Loans
When you apply for the FAFSA, you can also be awarded loans: subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Both subsidized and unsubsidized loans are provided by the federal government to help fund higher education.
What is a Subsidized Loan?
Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. Your school determines the amount you can borrow, and the amount may not exceed your financial need.
The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan:
- while you're in school at least half-time
- for the first six months after you leave school (referred to as a grace period*), and
- during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments)
What is an Unsubsidized Loan?
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students; there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need.
- Your school determines the amount you can borrow based on your cost of attendance and other financial aid you receive.
- You are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods.
- If you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment or forbearance periods, your interest will accrue (accumulate) and be capitalized (that is, your interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan).
Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education. studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized