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7 Things You Need to Know About FAFSA

Have you filled out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet? If not, here’s a refresher course on why this application is important for just about everyone.

Fill it out early. You can submit your FAFSA as early as October 1, for the following academic year. After your potential colleges receive your FAFSA, they can supply you with a financial aid award letter. This can help you narrow your college search, and gives you more time to come up with the remaining balance if you’ll need to cover some of your expenses yourself.

FAFSA qualities you for a variety of assistance. Federal Pell grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are available to those who qualify, but many states offer their own grant programs as well. You might also qualify for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants, special subsidized loan programs, and other forms of aid.

You don’t know until you try. Don’t assume that you won’t qualify for federal or state aid money. The formula used to calculate awards includes things like the number of children in the household, so if you have a sibling in college you could receive more aid than you anticipated. Plus, a completed FAFSA might be required when you apply for other forms of aid.

Your school might require a FAFSA even if you don’t qualify for federal or state aid. Your school’s aid packages might be eligible to you, even when government aid is not.

You could qualify for Work Study. Even if you don’t qualify for grants or subsidized loans, you might be eligible for Work Study positions. These campus jobs can be much more convenient than typical employment, because they’re so close to your dorm room and offer flexible schedules.

Fill out a FAFSA every year. Even if you didn’t qualify the year before, changes in the aid formula or in your household can make you newly eligible for financial assistance.

Grant money sometimes goes unused. You might have heard that states often run out of Pell grant money during some academic years. But the opposite can also be true; in the academic year 2018-1019, Rhode Island found itself unable to give away over 6 million in federal aid money.

Make sure you get your (potential) share! Fill out your FAFSA if you plan to attend college next year, even if you haven’t chosen a school. This can help you figure out where you should go, based on aid packages, and might factor into your final decision.

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