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FAFSA Deadlines

FAFSA Deadlines

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is used to apply for financial aid from your school, state, or government.  The application deadline for federal student financial aid and state student financial aid may be different, and you may be required to fill out additional application forms.

The FAFSA needs to be filled out in order for you to receive federal aid, state aid, or school aid.

  • School financial aid is given as loans, grants, or scholarships from the school you are attending (or wish to attend)
  • State financial aid is given by the state you live in as loans or educational grants.
  • Federal financial aid is given by the government as Pell Grants or Stafford Loans.

Federal Student Financial Aid deadlines

For the 2009 – 2010 school year (starting July 1, 2009, ending June 30, 2010), FAFSA online applications must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on June 30, 2010. Any corrections to the online forms must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on September 21, 2010.

If you apply for financial aid for the 2009-2010 school year (which we are currently in), you can use that aid to cover what you have already spent on schooling. This aid can also be applied towards any additional schooling or classes taken and completed before June 30, 2010.

For the 2010 – 2011 school year (starting July 1, 2010, ending June 30, 2011), FAFSA online applications must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on June 30, 2011. Any corrections to the online forms must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on September 21, 2011.

In order for you to actually receive financial aid, your school must have your correct and completed FAFSA information before the last day of your enrollment.

State Student Financial Aid Deadlines:

Most deadlines for state financial aid applications are different than the federal financial aid application deadlines, and will vary by each state. It is extremely important to check with your financial aid advisor to find out when these are so you don’t miss them! You can also check out http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm#state_deadlines for more details.

Since all financial aid – federal or state – is awarded on a first come, first served basis, it’s in your best interest to get all the FAFSA information you need to submit your application as soon as possible!

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What’s one of the best ways to qualify for financial aid? Fill out the FAFSA.

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Sallie Mae’s study, How America Pays for College 2009, found that nearly one in four families didn’t qualify for financial aid (federal grants or student loans) because they didn’t complete the FAFSA. They disqualified themselves solely on assumption! 30% of lower-income families did not fill out the FAFSA because they didn’t think that their family would qualify for aid. There is no excuse this year – the FAFSA has been simplified, the Department of Education has increased federal financial aid amounts, and the process is free. You have nothing to lose.

Edit 04/07/10: The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that community college students in California are leaving up to $500 MILLION in federal financial aid on the table because they simply having applied for it.

Lauren Asher, associate director for the Project on Student Debt, recently told the LA Times, “…the people who are most likely to underestimate their ability to qualify for aid are the people who are most likely to qualify.”

The LA Times also reports that many low-income students limit their college search to community colleges and in-state colleges and universities, rather than high-priced private schools, because they assume they can’t afford it. The thing is, many distinguished (and high-priced) private schools often provide much more aid than less prestigious colleges, making them more affordable to lower-income families.

Zac Bissonnette of WalletPop (one of my favorite personal finance websites), offers caution:

That’s true for a very small number of schools: If your student is smart enough to get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc., and you have a low expected family contribution, you will, in all probability, get something close to a free ride.

But after that, there’s a steep, steep drop-off. New York University graduates, for instance, leave college with an average debt load of $34,850, compared with just $14,541 for SUNY Binghamton grads.

What’s worse, over-reliance on financial aid can make students vulnerable to cuts, and, because of the complex way financial eligibility is calculated, options like working part-time or selling stock that has appreciated are often not practical because they decrease financial aid eligibility… If you pick a school with a low sticker price, your options for covering the cost are much less restricted.

At any rate, you won’t know what your options are unless you fill out the FAFSA. We’ll give you an update tomorrow on the FAFSA deadlines to be aware of.

Last week, A.R. wrote in asking:

Is it impossible for a U.S. citizen studying abroad to receive Pell or SMART grants?

In fact, it is not impossible. Universities and colleges are required by federal law to continue to disburse funds to eligible students participating in approved programs. Study abroad financial aid is widely available for U.S. citizens who want to expand their horizons and immerse themselves in other cultures. Financial aid for undergraduates who want to study abroad consists mostly of federal grants such as the Pell Grant and the FSEOG Grant, and federal and private loans:

study aborad financial aidScholarships are also available from private organizations and sponsor companies.

David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad provide scholarships to undergraduate students who wish to study languages and cultures considered to be important to U.S. national security and are underrepresented in study abroad. Students are not eligible to receive the Boren scholarship if they are studying in countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Deadline: February 10, 2010

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. Deadline: April 6, 2010 for Fall 2010 Semester

Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grants are designed to help support undergraduates as they seek knowledge and experience in their academic fields by studying abroad. Deadline: February 24, 2010

The Global Studies Foundation provides funding for American students who are already studying abroad under the direction of an official study abroad program from an accredited university. Deadline: July 1, 2010

Every school and study abroad program varies though, so be sure to speak with your school’s financial aid adviser or study abroad faculty to understand the specific funding options available at your school. The cost of any study abroad program depends on many factors – your destination country and the length of your program, not to mention all the additional travel costs such as your passport, visa, airfare, immunizations, local transportation, meals, and books.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget that exchange rates fluctuate all the time, so your dollars may not have the purchasing power you think. A general rule of thumb is that the more expensive the school’s tuition, the more costly the study-abroad program. Also, the student who spends a lot of money on campus is likely to spend a lot more money overseas.

For more information, visit NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.

Are you nervous about your ability to afford your college education? If the recent survey by UCLA is a benchmark for a growing trend, it’s safe to say that two-thirds of you are concerned about affording college.

UCLA conducts a survey every year about the perceptions and mind-set of the country’s incoming freshmen classes. This year’s survey found that two-thirds of freshmen said they were either somewhat or very worried about their ability to finance their college educations. With tuition and fees up and employment down, the effects of the economic downturn seem to be hitting even the most starry-eyed and optimistic college student.

Concerns surfaced from family finances to the cost of tuition:

  • 78% plan to pay for their first year of college at least in part from family resources
  • 42% said cost was a “very important” factor in choosing which college to attend
  • Nearly 67% of freshmen at four-year schools said they had at least some concerns about paying their tuition bills, more than any other freshmen class in the last 12 years.
  • Financial aid played an important role in a college choice for nearly 45% of the freshmen

I think the the survey’s findings could actually be a good thing! Maybe these stats will shed some light on the need for students to consider the value they get out of their college education, and not just the brand name of the university or the obligation to attend a 4-year college when their career goals only require an Associate’s degree.

If two-thirds of students are worried, it could mean that they’re considering graduating in 3 years to save money. They could be applying for more scholarships. They could be going to community college. The other third could be setting themselves up for a lot of student loan debt.

Are you worried about affording college? What are you doing about it?

FAFSA.com or FAFSA.gov?

Competition is high for the $168 billion set aside for financial aid this year. The cost of college has increased dramatically in the past 10 years – tuition, fees, and room and board at four-year public schools jumped 46% to $15,210 last year, according to College Board. Students are feeling the financial pinch and many are willing to do whatever it takes to make their dream affordable, including enlisting the help of professionals to squeeze every last penny they can from financial aid.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the difference between FAFSA.com and FAFSA.gov. FAFSA.gov is the U.S. Department of Education’s website where you complete the aid application yourself and file it for free. FAFSA.com is a fee-based FAFSA preparation service that helps you apply for federal financial aid. They offer one-on-one counseling, manage student aid deadlines, answer difficult or confusing questions, provide estimates of the amount of federal and state aid you can expect to receive, and check for errors to ensure that your FAFSA is accurate and you’re eligible for the most aid possible.

In the spirit of full disclosure, EducationGrant’s parent company partners with Student Financial Aid Services, the company behind FAFSA.com. However, I would never personally vouch for a company whose services I didn’t believe in, and there are a number of reasons why I feel a FAFSA preparation service like this could be a good option for many people:

  1. It’s similar to having an accountant prepare your income taxes each year – it’s something you can do on your own for free, but if you want to make sure all your ducks are in a row and that you haven’t made any mistakes, you might want to pay a professional to do it for you. The 130 questions on the FAFSA application can be confusing and if you make errors, you could be depriving yourself of money for college.
  2. The company is 100% up front about the fact that it is a fee-based alternative to preparing the FAFSA on your own. They don’t make any attempt to hide that fact.
  3. Their student aid advisers are fully trained so customers can rest assured that the advice and service they get is of the highest value.
  4. The company’s goal is to help students and families get the maximum amount of aid they are eligible to receive. They offer peace of mind for families that truly need financial assistance to go to college.

However, not everyone agrees with me. You’ll notice that if you Google “FAFSA.com” and the drop down menu is less than flattering:fafsa.com search results

The reason some people may think FAFSA.com is a scam is because Student Financial Aid Services charges you to prepare your FAFSA ($79.99 – $99.99 depending on the service). The company’s website clearly states that they are a private company and there is a fee, but some people still think they are filing the FAFSA through the government’s federal financial aid website, FAFSA.gov. If they suddenly find themselves being asked for payment information when they aren’t expecting it, they believe they’ve been duped.

Many students don’t even apply for aid because they are intimidated by the FAFSA form. For those students who may be overwhelmed by the process, working with a service like FAFSA.com could be incredibly beneficial. Errors on the FAFSA not only delay the process but they could negatively impact the amount of financial aid you receive.

Have you opted to use FAFSA.com? What was your experience?

The key to filling out the FAFSA is to be prepared. How do you prepare for a long, detailed form like the FAFSA? You gather all the personal identification information and financial documents the FAFSA will ask you for and you apply for a FAFSA P.I.N. so you can fill out your official FAFSA online (FAFSA-on-the-Web).

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how to do the FAFSA. (For a few important FAFSA Facts first, see EducationGrant’s FAFSA page).

Before We Start: Understanding FAFSA Application Periods

Each FAFSA application period runs from January 1st of any given year to June 30th of the following year. This 18-month period provides financial aid coverage for the traditional September–to–May school year and a short summer school session at either end.

For example, as of January 2010:

  • If the education program you want to enroll in starts between now and June 30th, 2010, fill out the 2009-2010 FAFSA.
  • If the education program you want to enroll in starts between July 1st, 2010 and June 30th, 2011, fill out the 2010-2011 FAFSA.

Key to Filling Out the FAFSA: A Step-By-Step Plan

Step 1: Collect the documents you’ll need for the FAFSA and use them to do the Practice Worksheet

Required personal identification information and financial documents:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN)—or your alien registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • SSN of your parent(s) if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a Dependent Student
  • Your driver’s license if you have one
  • Your most recent bank statements
  • Your W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • Your Federal Income Tax Return (and your spouse’s, if you are married): IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau
  • Your parents’ Federal Income Tax Return, if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a dependent student
  • Records of your untaxed income such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans’ benefits
  • Your most recent business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and records of stocks, bonds, and other investments

Step 2: Get a PIN for FAFSA-on-the-Web OR download a paper application

The Department of Education strongly recommends that you use FAFSA-on-the-Web. Filing online is shorter, easier, and faster, and you get an answer back more quickly, too. (Read more about FAFSA-on-the-Web in Step 3.)

FAFSA-On-the-Web (FAFSA Online)

  • Apply for your PIN online at www.pin.ed.gov.
  • Your PIN allows you to “sign” your Online FAFSA, and to access your FAFSA file every year that you apply.
  • Apply for your PIN ASAP because processing your request will take at least 2-5 business days.
  • Your parent(s) must have a PIN too if you meet the FAFSA definition of a Dependent Student
  • Providing an email address will speed up the PIN process.

Downloadable Paper FAFSA to Submit by Mail

  • Download a PDF copy of the FAFSA from the Student Aid Website or call the Federal Student Aid Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.
  • Check the federal school code page to find the code for each school you plan to apply to.
  • Throughout January and February 2010, volunteers across the country are holding events where they are providing in-person help to students filling out the FAFSA. If you could use some help, see if there is a FAFSA event in your area.

Step 3: Set aside some time to do the FAFSA

Block out a couple of hours on your calendar to sit down and just get the FAFSA done. The Department of Education recommends using FAFSA-on-the-Web for several reasons:

  • Online instructions are provided for each question and live online help with a customer service representative is available if you get really stuck.
  • FAFSA-on-the-Web is designed to find mistakes and prompt you to correct them.
  • You can get the federal school code while you’re right there in the form.
  • You can fill out all the questions at once or save your application for later changes and updates. This is a great feature for submitting all the information you have other than your tax return. You have 45 days from when you first submit information, or until the application deadline passes.
  • Once you click “Submit My FAFSA Now” your information is immediately sent to the Department of Education.
  • Your application is processed more quickly.

Tips from FAFSA Experts

  • Do a dry run. Print out a FAFSA Practice Worksheet and fill in as much of the information as you can. This way you’ll have all your data in one place and can easily transfer it to your official FAFSA-on-the-Web.
  • About taxes. You can do your FAFSA-on-the-Web before filing your tax return. Estimate your tax information on your FAFSA, then submit a FAFSA follow-up with any corrections after you’ve completed your tax return. (You have 45 days.)
  • Dependency status. If the FAFSA defines you as a Dependent Student but you have no contact with either parent, make an appointment with a financial aid officer at your school. The financial aid administrator will work with you to determine if you qualify for Independency status in spite of meeting the Dependent Student criteria, and then will submit your FAFSA-on-the-Web with a Dependency Override. Another option is to submit the FAFSA-on-the-Web without parent information, which will qualify you only for an unsubsidized student loan. In this case, you will get an incomplete Student Aid Report (SAR), and if the financial aid office of the school you want to attend agrees to give you Independency status later on, they can do the dependency override then.

Ok, it’s a lot— but it isn’t that different from doing your taxes, another process that benefits from having all your ducks in a row before you begin. For the 2007–2008 academic year, the federal government provided over $14 billion in Pell Grants to more than 5.4 million undergraduate students. Start collecting all your documents as soon as you finish reading this post. The key to filling out the FAFSA is just a little preparation.

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Here’s a treat for a Monday: a chance to share good news about the challenging FAFSA. This month and next, volunteers are standing by to help you fill out a FAFSA, in person, so you can get federal financial aid for college.

Kim Clark, who is always on top of financial aid news at U.S. News & World Report, just alerted her readers about the free FAFSA assistance in her article, Applying for Financial Aid Will Be Easier in 2010. Apparently, some of the volunteers will be tax professionals who will help students with both the FAFSA and their tax returns.

Since the FAFSA is the application you have to fill out in order to get a Pell Grant (and maybe other federal grants for college), getting free help with both the FAFSA and the 1040 sounds like a well-spent afternoon.

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Thinking about going back to school, but don’t know where to start? Amanda Ly, a freshman at East Los Angeles College, wrote a gripping and informative LA Youth article about her initial experience with choosing and paying for college:

Hit with the real cost of college

Although her college plans didn’t turn exactly as she had hoped, Amanda’s financial situation will feel familiar to many students and her description of her experience in navigating student loans, and her hard-won advice, will benefit all readers—whether you’re a new high school graduate or a nontraditional student returning to school. For an introduction on college planning, take a look at this student’s thoughts about what she learned during her college selection and application process.

Top tips: What to find out from the school(s) you’re considering and how early to start planning how you’ll pay for college.

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Yesterday, one of our companion sites received a helpful email from an administrator in the Financial Aid Office of University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Ms. Pamela Ramanathan pointed out that when it comes to dependent student vs. independent student status on the FAFSA, “Students must provide parent information on the FAFSA unless they meet the qualification for independent student. Not being claimed on your parents’ tax return does NOT make a student independent. Even if students are not claimed on their parents’ tax returns, they usually still have to provide parent information.”

This is the kind of insight that is valuable for having come straight from an expert working with real people in real situations. Thanks, Ms. Ramanathan! The clarification prompted a curiosity to know more about this FAFSA issue.

What’s the difference between Dependent Student and Independent Student status on the FAFSA?

Essentially, dependent students must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA in addition to their own. Independent students report their own income and assets (and those of their spouse, if they’re married). Generally, they do not have to report their parents’ income or assets.

In fact, it’s easier to define independent student status first, because dependent student status, well, depends on whether or not you fit independent student status.

Reminder: If you’re planning to enroll in a higher education program that starts between now and June 30, 2010, you must file a 2009-2010 FAFSA. If your education program doesn’t start until after July 1st, you’ll submit the 2010-2011 FAFSA.

Definition of “Independent Student

For federal financial aid eligibility, you are an independent student IF AT LEAST ONE of these criteria applies to you:

  • You are 24 years old or older (Born before Jan. 1, 1986 for the 2009-2010 FAFSA; born before Jan. 1, 1987 for the 2010-2011 FAFSA).
  • You’re married on the day you apply for financial aid (even if you are separated but not divorced).
  • You are or will be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program (beyond a bachelor’s degree) at the beginning of the academic year* your FAFSA is for, 2009-2010 or 2010-2011.
  • You’re currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
  • You’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. (A “veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable.)
  • You have children who will receive more than half their support from you during the FAFSA academic year*.
  • You have legal dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you now and through June 30, 2010 for a 2009-2010 FAFSA or June 30, 2011 if you’re filing a 2010-2011 FAFSA.
  • When you were age 13 or older, both your parents were deceased and you were you in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court.
  • As of the day you apply for aid, you are an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
  • As of the day you apply for aid, you are in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, your high school or school district homeless liaison determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

These are the standard criteria for defining an independent student on the FAFSA. If none of them applies to you, you are considered a dependent student.

You can find additional details and downloadable tip sheets on dependent student vs. independent student status, parents and stepparents, and dependent students in special circumstances at Student Aid on the Web Publications, Forms, and Brochures.

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* A number of “independent student” criteria are restricted to specific academic years. For the purpose of federal financial aid and the FAFSA, relevant academic years are defined as:

  • 2009-2010: July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010
  • 2010-2011: July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011

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Have you ever felt like you watched a paycheck come in one door and go out another before you could say “savings account”? Well, the beginning of the new year is an excellent time for advice on saying “hello” to more money and saying “goodbye” to burdensome debt. So, we looked around for just that kind of advice. Here’s what we found:

In the Boston Globe, personal finance guru Suze Orman listed her Top Money Tips for 2010. Check out this advice on saving money, paying cash for purchases, understanding mortgages, preparing for being laid off, and finding career paths for prosperity.

Favorite quote from this article, re: finding a job:

“You should go into a field where you really want to spend the rest of your life. If you can just do what you want to do and you can be the best at what you want to do, better than anybody else out there, you will create a job for yourself. Just because there’s a job market out there this month or next year in an area, it doesn’t mean it will be there a few years from now—look at the car industry.”

And at Bankrate.com, Steve Bucci provided 10 Ways to Dump Your Debt in 2010. Considering that the Class of 2008 carries an average of $23,200 in student loan debt (and often far more than that), any practical and effective advice on how college students and graduates can start eliminating their student loan and credit card debt is a step toward a brighter future.

Welcome to the last year of the first decade of the new millennium!

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