FAFSA is one of the vital forms high school seniors need to complete while gathering all of their college application materials together. In a time when college is extremely expensive, students need the best financial package to avoid debt after college. The FAFSA helps with this by finding out the family’s financial profile to decide how much financial aid they can receive. The form is quite simple and is free on the website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.
The amount of financial aid you receive is based on your EFC, which is your Expected Family Contribution. This number is how much the government says you can afford to pay. The lower your EFC, the more financial aid you receive. All of this is determined by information about your household including income and assets. Students should keep in mind that the FAFSA not only makes you eligible for federal aid, but also financial aid from the colleges themselves like grants and work-study opportunities.
One of the most confusing parts of the FAFSA is for the student when he/she must answer whether they are a dependent or an independent. The difference between the two is that dependents must write in their parent’s information also, while independents write in their own information. Most students are dependents if they live with one or both of their parents, or is cared for by a guardian. Cases where a student is independent are as follows: They can be married, 24 or older, in foster care after age 13 or declared homeless by their high school, has a child whom they support more than 50% of the time, and or someone not a parent or stepparent has legal guardianship over them.
The two big changes to the FAFSA this year are that students can start their application earlier beginning on Oct. 1st instead of repeating past years where it started January 1st, and the second change being that applicants must relay information from tax returns two years prior. So, in the case of the graduating class of 2017, they would file their 2015 tax returns. This makes it easier to students as the taxes are already files to the IRS. So all FAFSA applications are synced up with the IRS when submitting it to colleges, avoiding obstacles past students had to face.
The FAFSA is a must for any senior considering college. It is the key to all of the financial aid they would need to afford higher education. The new changes made this year help make the process easier and faster for students. The expense of college is a fear for many students and their parents, but by submitting your FAFSA, you are helping to lower your future college debt, which will make the rest of your life easier.