Morgan Patrick, Educational Opportunity Centers Coordinator
Northwest College, Powell, Wyoming. Phone: (307) 754-6109
Frequently asked questions about FAFSA:
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a document that is filled out online to apply for federal grants and student loans as well as some work study programs. It is filled out every year the student is going to college. The FAFSA becomes available October 1st of year. Students will fill out the FAFSA for the following school year.
Do we HAVE to fill out the FAFSA?
You never HAVE to fill out the FAFSA, but it is highly recommended. Last year, 2.7 BILLION dollars went unclaimed by students that would have qualified for Pell grants, but they didn’t fill out the FAFSA or they neglected to complete the application. Many colleges are requiring the FAFSA be completed in order to apply for scholarships. The reason for this is that the schools and scholarship committees want to make sure students are taking advantage of every monetary resource.
If we know we don’t qualify for the FAFSA, do we still need to fill it out?
It is always recommended that you fill out the FAFSA. Income guidelines change every year, and there are many considerations that affect your qualification such as income, family size, how many students are in college, etc.
While you may not qualify for the Pell grant (currently up to $5,920 per year that doesn’t have to be paid back), you may still qualify for student loans. While no one wants to take out a loan, it may be a last minute option if other resources fall through. You never know if you will need to take out a loan, and if you do, the federal student loans are the most flexible and their interest rates are often lower than private loans.
What if it appears we have the money to help for out student’s college, but we really don’t?
Many circumstances can cause your income to appear higher that it actually is. In certain circumstances, the student can request that those circumstances be reviewed by the financial aid department at the college you apply to. Each institution has professional judgement, and they can choose to consider those situations including serious illness of immediate family, loss of job, etc.
We are divorced. How do we do the FAFSA?
If parents are divorced, the FAFSA will ask whether the parents are married, divorced or remarried. Typically, the parent the student is living with is the one that’s income is considered. You will not need the non-custodial parent’s information if they do not care for the student more than 50% of the time. If parents are remarried, the parent the student lives with AND the step-parents income are required. IF the parent lives with a significant other, but is not married, only the custodial parent’s income is taken into account.
WHAT IS FEDERAL STUDENT AID?
Federal student aid comes from the federal government - specifically the U.S. Department of Education. It's money that helps a student pay for higher education expenses.
Federal student aid covers such expenses as:
1 - tuition and fees
2 - room and board
3 - books and supplies
4 - transportation
There are three main categories of federal student aid:
1 - grants
2 - work study
3 - loans
WHO GETS FEDERAL STUDENT AID?
The most basic requirements are you must:
1 - demonstrate financial need - learn more.
2 - be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
3 - have a valid Social Security number
4 - register with Selective Service, if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25
5 - maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school
6 - show you are qualified to obtain a college or career school education by having a high school diploma or GED certificate
Find more details about FAFSA eligibility.
FEDERAL STUDENT AID AND HOMELESS YOUTH
Find more details here: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth
Find more details here: Financial Aid for Youth Who are Homeless (at risk of homeless) and On Their Own
HOW DO YOU APPLY FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID?
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All students are encourgaged to visit the FAFSA webiste to begin preparations for appliacation:
Parents will be required to use the completed tax returns for the FAFSA.
Apply as soon as you can as schools and states often use FAFSA information to award non-federal aid.
Check the schools you are interested in for their specific deadlines!
Many questions can be answered by calling the school you are interested in attending OR the Federal Help-Line.
Make sure the financial aid office at each school you are interested in has all the information needed to determine your eligibility. If you are eligible, each school's financial aid office will send you an award letter showing the amount and types of aid (from all sources) the school will offer you. You can compare award letters from the schools to which you applied and see what aid you can receive from each school!