Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Longview High School
Longview, Texas

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This page was last updated on
08/29/2011 02:42 PM

 FASA PowerPoint Presented by Marilyn Richardson, East Texas Educational Opportunity Center

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is an acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The operative word here is Free. It costs nothing to submit a FAFSA, but it is ever so important. It is probably the only way that many students will be able to afford to attend college after high school. All federally funded need-based financial aid programs are distributed based on the responses that you provide on your FAFSA. All state funded need-based financial aid (which in Texas is managed and awarded by each Texas public college or university) is distributed based on the responses that you provide on your FAFSA. Many colleges and universities with both state funded and privately donated scholarship funds will distribute these awards based on the responses that you provide on your FAFSA. Many private scholarships that you apply for that are not associated with any particular school will require that you submit a copy of your SAR (Student Aid Report) that you receive after completing the FAFSA. FAFSA is extremely important and essential for college bound seniors. It can be thought of as the machine that powers the financial aid process. All students, no matter what socio-economic background they come from should complete a FAFSA. While there is no guarantee that you will be eligible for any federal, state, or private funds if you submit a FAFSA, you most assuredly will not receive these if you fail to submit a FAFSA.

The steps to applying for Post Secondary financial aid are simple:

  1. In the fall of your senior year, investigate the financial aid deadlines for the college/colleges that you are considering application to. If there is a early deadline (by November or December) go ahead and apply for admissions to these institutions and complete a separate financial application if there is such. Many schools combine the admissions and the financial aid application, some, however, do not. An application for admissions and financial aid does not constitute a commitment to attendance.

  2. As soon as you can after January 1st of your senior year, complete the FAFSA. You will have the option to authorize the U. S. Department of Education to send your FAFSA information to 6 different schools.

  3. After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive an Student Aid Report (SAR) that lists the types and amounts of aid that you qualify for. These may include grants, loans, and/or institutional scholarships. You do not have to send your SAR to the schools that you listed on your FAFSA. They are automatically sent by the U. S. Department of Education. If you want to add another school to the list of schools you want to receive your information, you may do so at the FAFSA website or you may authorize the school itself to request your information.

  4. If any of your personal information needs to be changed, make sure that you know the deadlines by which you must make these changes. These dates can be found on the FAFSA website or on the paper form. Respect these deadlines; they are firm and there are no exceptions.

  5. You will begin to receive "financial aid packages" from the schools that received your SAR. They will be very similar, but some will have specific grants and scholarships that are unique to that school. You are given the option to accept or decline the aid. Evaluate each package and determine carefully which school can offer you the best education for the money offered. Be aware of the schools deadline by which you must return your intent to accept or decline financial aid. Don't miss the deadlines!

2010 LHS graduates can first submit a FAFSA for their fall semester of college beginning on January 1, 2010, not before. However, if for some reason a student cannot submit a FAFSA before they begin their freshman year of college, they have until July 1, 2010 to submit it and apply for all types of need based financial aid that can retroactively be applied to their account. However, it is not a good idea to wait until the end of the processing cycle to submit your information because some colleges that use the information provided on the FAFSA award state and institutional financial aid on a first come, first served basis. It would be of no benefit to apply for this aid after it had already been distributed. If you anticipate a delay in submitting your FAFSA because of an inability to compete an income tax return, know that you are allowed to estimate income and taxes as accurately as possible on the FAFSA, correcting the actual amounts once the tax forms are complete.

LHS receives only a few paper FAFSA forms. The U. S. Department of Education prefers that you complete your FAFSA information online. In fact, you will probably see the paper application disappear altogether, and students will most likely be required to complete the online version of FAFSA. It is by far the most efficient way to submit your form and offers the advantage of expediting the receipt of your SAR (Student Aid Report). 

It is important that you RENEW your FAFSA information each year. YOU MUST RE-APPLY FOR NEED BASED FINANCIAL AID EACH YEAR OF COLLEGE, even if none of your information changes. This is a very simple procedure, especially if you renew online.

A word about deadlines...

Seniors completing the FAFSA for the first time should submit their FAFSA form (either online or by mail) as soon as possible even though the form states that you have until June of next year to submit it. This wide window of time in which to submit the FAFSA is provided for students who have unique circumstances and choose not to enter college until sometime later than the Fall semester after graduating from high school. This window of time gives them the opportunity to apply for Federal Financial Aid when they finally do start college. The aid awarded by the Federal government never runs out. However, some of the money awarded by the college or university is limited and is distributed on a first come, first served basis. When it is gone, there is no more to distribute. Since most colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award such aid, you would need to get your form in as early as possible to be considered for this limited aid.

When you begin to fill out the FAFSA form, you will notice that it advises you to be aware of your state's financial aid deadline. Texas does not have a specific financial aid deadline, and if you navigate through the FAFSA website and choose to view the financial aid deadline for Texas, you will be instructed to contact the financial aid officer at your college of choice. Here is the reason why:  the State of Texas distributes its financial aid (both need-based and academic based) through the financial aid office of each college or university, both public and private (according to the eligibility requirements of each aid program). If you would like to read about the financial aid programs that the State of Texas awards, click here. Remember that the only way to "apply" for the Federal aid programs as well as the state aid programs is to complete a FAFSA form. The best policy to adopt when completing the FAFSA is to

APPLY EARLY!
As soon as possible after January 1st of your senior year.

Financial aid for students in Texas who are not eligible for Federal aid through FAFSA because of citizenship/residency issues may be eligible to apply for Texas financial aid by completing the TAFSA. To read more about this opportunity, click here.

Be Aware of the Scams

Proceed to the OFFICIAL  FAFSA Website to complete the online form.
Please take time to read all the information on the website.

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