How to Get Federal or State Student Financial Aid?
State or federal student aid is the lifeline that supports a college degree for many students in the U.S. For example, according to the National Center for Education statistics, over 2 million college students relied on financial aid in the 2014-2015 school year.
Well, the college’s sticker price has been rising in the recent years, making accessing quality education more and more difficult for many young people. Fortunately, all students are eligible for at least one form of financial aid, so here’s how you can navigate this process and apply for all options.
Who Gets Student Financial Aid?
There are certain eligibility requirements that you must meet to get some type of financial aid. They include:
- Proving the need for financial assistance (this sum is calculated by subtracting the amount of money your family can provide to pay for your education from the cost of attendance of the school you selected)
- Showing that you’ve maintained satisfactory academic progress in college or another school
- Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- Having a valid Social Security number
- Providing your high school diploma or another state-recognized equivalent.
How to Apply for Federal Aid
To unlock your access to college financial aid, you have to complete a special form at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website.
Keep in mind that you must submit it before the FAFSA school year deadlines. The FAFSA form for the 2018-2019, for example, become available on October 1, 2017, and will be open until June 30, 2019.
The first step in applying is to create your FSA ID.
To do that, you have to visit the FSA website and follow the instructions that the site gives you. Be prepared to provide your personal information. The purpose of creating the ID is to confirm your identity and electronically sign your financial aid-related online documents.
The second step is to complete the FAFSA application. The site recommends to do it as fast as possible to beat the deadlines and make corrections in an error is discovered in the application.
Now that you’ve provided all data needed to be considered for student financial aid, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR. This report includes all information from the application as well as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a number that shows your eligibility.
The school you applied to will receive your EFC and review to assess your eligibility (you’re only eligible for financial assistance if your EFC is less than the cost of attendance of the schools you listed in your FAFSA application).
If you’re wondering what your EFC is, you can use Quick EFC calculator from FinAid to prepare an approximation.
How to Apply for State Financial Aid
“In addition to the federal government, there are many local organizations that provide a wide range of grants, scholarships, and other types of aid,” says Michelle Ingram, a scholarship advisor .
To see your options, visit the site of the National Association of Student Financial Aid (NASFA) and Administrators, click on your state (or the state where a school is located), and the system will redirect you to the list of available funding options.
For example, see the list of available state and federal grants and scholarships in Texas that was generated by the NASFA’s site.
Tips for Getting College Financial Aid
- Meet the Deadlines
This tip has already been mentioned above, but we just cannot overstate the importance of meeting deadlines to get student financial aid. Most colleges in the U.S. have limited aid budgets, so when they distribute the money among those who applied, there simply won’t be enough funds to continue. This means that a late application is a bad idea.
- Contact a College Financial Aid Counselor
He or she can assess your chances for getting the aid and give you some valuable tips for filling out documents.
- Focus Your Effort
The process of searching and applying for student financial aid can be tiring a bit, so you have to focus your effort to achieve your goal. Do paperwork and all other things required, and don’t expect everything to be easy and smooth.
Some students miss great opportunities to get financial aid because they haven’t done their homework. For example, it’s a common misconception that part-time students aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. They are, so contact the college you’re interested in and find out what funding options are available for you if you want to attend part-time.
Over to You
As you get ready for college, keep in mind that there are many federal and state student financial aid options available for you. You just need to do your best and be ready to go the extra mile to get what you need to afford the tuition bill. Good luck!