Don’t wait to reapply for Financial Aid!

Too early to be thinking about next fall? One thing you don’t want to forget is to reapply for financial aid for the 2016-17 academic year. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) which is available beginning on January 1, 2016. As a returning student who has applied before, you can opt to pre-fill the application with some of the basic information, but you will need your FSA ID to do so. Check out how to get an FSA ID and what to do if you forgot your FSA ID for more information.

It is a good idea to wait until you or your parents have or are ready to file your 2015 tax return before submitting the FASFA. The U.S. Department of Education has created an IRS Data Retrieval Tool which allows applicants and parents to retrieve tax data directly from the IRS, a process that is strongly recommended to streamline and expedite the processing of your financial aid. Using this tool may also minimize the need to provide additional information or documentation because your income data will already have been verified by the IRS.

In addition to the FASFA, schools may require you to complete their own application. The due dates for these applications may vary, so be sure to the check your school’s financial aid website for more information and for important dates. Similarly, remember that many state financial aid programs also use FAFSA data to determine need and may have early application deadlines or award funds on a first‑come, first-served basis. Be sure to check with your state’s program website or office, and file as soon as possible.

Be aware that your financial aid package may change next year if there were changes in your family’s financial situation or, for example, your eligibility for merit aid that may have been based on your GPA has changed. Your eligibility also may be affected by other factors such as:

  • Change in the number of family members in college
  • In-state residency or parental marital status
  • Satisfactory academic progress toward a degree
  • Lifetime eligibility limits

Again, check with your school’s financial aid office for more detailed information.

If you have never applied for financial before or don’t think you qualify, apply anyway. Some families mistakenly think they don’t quality for aid and miss out on grant and loan opportunities. There are a few sources of loan aid, such as the unsubsidized Direct and PLUS loans, which are available regardless of need, but you must file a FAFSA to qualify. Additionally, eligibility and funding opportunities may change from year to year, so it’s a good idea to apply for aid again if you applied your first year and didn’t qualify . If you plan on changing schools next year, keep in mind that your aid doesn’t automatically transfer. Check with your new school to find out what you need to do to in order to continue receiving aid.

So, be proactive and plan on getting those applications in as early as possible! It will ensure you the best chance of getting that much needed aid so you can continue your college education with a little less stress.

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  • Alfonza Gantt

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