If you're like most future college students, you're going to have to borrow a few bucks for this next stage in your life. Most families cannot pay for college out of pocket, because it's really expensive. Therefore, you will need to become very familiar with the process of applying for federal student aid. These are the loans and grants that will get you through the next 4-5 years of your undergraduate experience.
The type of financial aid students need and receive varies from student to student and from school to school. But one thing is certain: everyone applying for federal student financial aid must fill out the FAFSA. This includes the Bright Futures Scholarship.
The FAFSA is an online form that sends student financial information to the federal government. The government looks at this information and determines your financial need and how much money you are eligible to receive. It sounds far more complicated than it is. But, it's important you understand this process so you can be ready for the financial aspect of your college career.
Here are the 5 most important to know about the FAFSA:
- It's FREE. You are never charged to fill out a FAFSA; so if you end up on a site that wants a credit card to fill out the form, you're in the wrong place. The only website for the FAFSA is https://fafsa.ed.gov/.
- You will need a Federal Student Aid ID or a FSA ID to fill out the FAFSA. It's an easy process to obtain your FSA ID. Go to https://fsaid.ed.gov/ and fill out the form. Once you generate your FSA ID, you can start filling out your FAFSA.
- You will need tax information to fill out the FAFSA. If you are a dependent student, you will need your parents' financial information from their most recent tax returns. If you filed with Turbo Tax, there is a button right on their website that will automatically transfer your tax info straight into your FAFSA form.
- You must fill out a FAFSA for every year you are in college. This is not a one time deal. Your financial situation may change; therefore, it's imperative to fill out a FAFSA every year you're eligible.
- Your FAFSA information should remain confidential. DO NOT give this information to anyone - even people who may be trying to help you fill out the FAFSA. Giving out W-2 and social security information puts you at risk for identity theft.