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The First Step in Federal Aid

The first step in applying for federal aid is to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a crucial factor when it comes to assessing qualifications and determining the amount of funding to award the recipient.

Current reports show that significant numbers of prospective graduate students do not understand how to fill out the FAFSA and are unaware of the financial assistance available to them via the application. Case in point: A 2006 Massachusetts College Goal Sunday survey revealed that more than 95% of college students needed help when attempting to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and more than one third asked for one-on-one assistance with doing so.

Comprehending and correctly filing a FAFSA are necessary if a student wishes to qualify for large loans, such as the Federal Stafford Loan and PLUS Loan. With the subsidized version of the Federal Stafford Loan, you can benefit from having the government pay the interest while you attend your graduate school program. Additionally, there is a six-month "grace period" afforded to the new graduate, during which he or she does not have to make payments. Filling out and properly filing a FAFSA does not have to be intimidating if you're prepared.

First, adhere to the set deadlines. FAFSA has an established deadline, but be sure to find out if the individual institutions you are applying to have different dates for financial aid requests. The 2007-2008 FAFSA is the FAFSA form for the academic year beginning on July 1, 2007. This year's filing period began on January 1, 2007. Filing the application as soon as possible is the best way to gauge how much financial aid you'll have the opportunity to receive, especially if you're requesting consideration for limited funding.

Second, gather all the documents necessary to complete the form. According to the FAFSA website,, an applicant will need his or her Social Security number, driver's license, income tax return, bank statements, and investment records. A dependent student will need his or her parents' records, as well. Collecting this data beforehand makes the application process quicker and easier to understand.

The FAFSA website provides a worksheet that can be used to gather personal and parent data, which, once completed, can be copied and transferred to the web when the applicant is ready to actually file the form. Keep in mind that in order to electronically sign the FAFSA, you will need a PIN. Applying for a PIN can also be done via the website. These are all steps to be taken before filling out and submitting the application.

The online application has several benefits. It offers general and specific assistance for each page of the application. Also, the online application supplies access to worksheets that automatically calculate entered data. Plus, using the assigned PIN to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA only takes seconds.

Finally, once the FAFSA has been filed, the applicant can follow up by visiting the website and charting the status of his or her application.

Don't be afraid to ask for more information from institutions' financial aid offices and the FAFSA website or office. The more questions you ask, the better you'll understand the process. Financial assistance is available; it's just a matter of knowing how to obtain it!


Article Title : The First Step in Federal Aid
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Schools Will No Longer Receive Paper FAFSA Forms
(September 20, 2007)

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