Usually students in their senior year of high school apply for financial aid, by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). At this time, most students have already decided which colleges they are applying to, and are making final choices about their academic future.

The U.S. Department of Education developed FAFSA4caster as an early estimator tool, because students should be researching and aware of their financial aid eligibility BEFORE their senior year of high school.

FAFSA4caster is not the financial aid application. High school juniors or seniors (in their first months of their senior year) should use this tool, as it provides them with more specific financial aid information. They can enter their information, and FAFSA4caster will estimate their financial aid eligibility. By doing so, they will already have this financial aid estimate when they start to look at potential colleges. It helps relieve some of the stress about whether or not they will be able to afford a particular school or not while they are conducting their college search.

FAFSA4caster also provides general information on financial aid, as well as helpful tips. You can also easily transfer your information from FAFSA4caster to FAFSA on the Web, once you are ready to officially apply for aid. It is meant to be a helpful resource to prepare students for their financial aid application process.

Applying for financial aid doesn’t have to be stressful! Start preparing today!

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Need help filling out the FAFSA if you’re an independent student?

Watch EducationGrant’s how-to video for advice and tips!

Note: Please turn up the volume on your computer before watching.

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State deadlines for the FAFSA  may be different than the federal deadline. State forms do not replace filling out the federal FAFSA form.

If you want federal financial aid, you must fill out the FAFSA! Don’t miss your state’s deadlines, as they will vary state to state, and may require additional forms or letters of recommendation, etc.

fafsa deadlines

* Additional form may be required. Contact your financial aid administrator or your state agency.
^ Applicants encouraged to obtain proof of mailing.
# For priority consideration, submit application by date specified.
@ Deadline by midnight, Central Daylight Time.
& Deadline by midnight, Central Standard Time.

Source: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm

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The U.S. Department of Education said it’s received approximately 5,000 FAFSA forms that were wrongfully filled out. Students who were trying to fill out the 2010-2011 FAFSA form mistakenly filled out the 2009-2010 form.

Affected students will be notified by mail with this statement.

The problem with the forms was caused by a technical error that began after an update to the website on February 23, 2010. Apparently some 2010-2011 applicants that were trying to access the FAFSA form with an unsupported Internet browser were misdirected to the 2009-2010 form, after receiving a warning message indicating that their Internet browser was not supported.

This website error has affected less than 5,000 students, which is approximately 0.2 percent of the more than 2.8 million applications received during the relevant period. Any information shared in the FAFSA continues to remain safe and secure.

You will be contacted if you have been affected by this error. If you wish you speak to someone, feel free to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at #1-800-4-FED-AID.

Source: USA Today

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Many parents fill out the FAFSA for their children. According to The College Solution blog, here are some common mistakes that parents make when filling it out:common fafsa mistakes

1. Don’t leave answers blank. Leaving blanks on your form can cause miscalculations, and the application could possibly be rejected. If your intended answer is zero, write “0”.

2. Double check your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Make sure you have written the correct numbers – even one wrong digit can mess up the entire application.

3. Don’t enter the wrong income tax information. Make sure you enter the federal income tax you paid (or will pay) based on the 2009 federal tax return. Do not enter the tax withholdings on your (or your spouse’s) W-2 forms.

4. List your current marital status. You need to state what your marital status is on the day you fill out the FAFSA – whether you are married, separated, or divorced.

5. Don’t include retirement assets. The FAFSA asks about how much money you have in cash, checking, and savings accounts. It does not ask about your 401 (k), IRA, or other retirement accounts you have – so don’t include this information!

6. List colleges your child has applied to. You are able to include up to 10 colleges that your child has applied to – but you will need each college’s Federal School Code. The federal processors will send the relevant FAFSA information to the schools you have listed.

7. Don’t exaggerate your education. If both parents didn’t graduate from college, don’t list “college” as the highest level of education – even if they did attend some college courses over the years. There are many schools that favor applicants who are considered first-generation college-students.

8. Home equity is irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask if you own a house (or second home, or real estate investments…), so the value of your house does not matter.

9. Retirement accounts are irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask about your retirement accounts – so your chances for financial aid help aren’t affected by how much money you have saved up in these accounts.

For more helpful information regarding the FAFSA visit:

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Here are some of today’s financial aid news stories:financial aid in the news

Students in race for state’s college financial aid funds

The Chicago Sun Times reports that financial aid applications are being filled out quickly, since students are afraid of  being shut out from state aid. More than 180,000 Illinois students filled out financial aid forms in January and February, which is 21 percent more than those two months last year. Last year, Illinois ended up denying financial aid applications that were submitted after May 15, which was the earliest cutoff date in history. Because of this, more than120,000 eligible students didn’t get a dime of financial aid for the fall semester.

College acts to disregard fiscal needs in admissions

The New York Times reports that Hamilton College (a small liberal arts college in Clinton, NY) is adopting a need-blind admissions policy. This means that they will consider applicants regardless of their ability to pay. Previously, some students were admitted to Hamilton College partly because they required no financial aid, and others were rejected from the college because they did. Over the next four years, Hamilton expects to add about $2 million to its annual financial aid budget. Full tuition, room and board, and other fees to attend Hamilton total nearly $50,000 per year, where the average financial aid award is about $32,500.

Don’t put off applying for college financial aid

Buffalo News reports that financial aid will be in high demand again this year, so students need to fill out their financial aid applications quickly. Financial aid applications for the The University of Maryland-College Park are up 12 percent from last year, although federal funding for work-study and certain education grants has been cut down.

Don’t wait till the last minute to fill out your FAFSA! Fore more financial aid information, check out:

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Do you need help filling out the FAFSA, or have questions regarding the financial aid application process? Here are 4 financial aid resources which should help make filling out the FAFSA easier for you!help with fafsa

FAFSA on the Web

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA on the Web site has live online representatives who are available to help when you’re filling out the FAFSA, by hitting the “Live Help” button. Also, you have the option of speaking to a customer service representative by calling the FAFSA phone number: (800)-433-3243.

FAFSA on the Web Worksheet

  • By downloading the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet, you will be able to gather all the required financial and tax documents ahead of time. It allows you to take a practice run at filling out the FAFSA, before you sign online to officially fill it out and apply. Also, by filling out the practice worksheet beforehand, you’ll have less of a chance of making errors on the real FAFSA.

College Goal Sunday

  • College Goal Sunday is a non-profit program (sponsored in part by the YMCA) that offers personal FAFSA counseling at certain events throughout the country. Representatives are available at these functions to speak with you in person about your FAFSA or financial aid questions. Check out College Goal Sunday’s website to find a financial aid event near you.


  • This financial aid website offers free financial aid webinars, and has step-by-step instructions on how to complete the FAFSA, as well as a Q&A session.

Source:  CBS MoneyWatch.com

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If you haven’t already, you should get a head start on filling out your FAFSA application. Each year, more than 16 million students apply for more than $100 million in student aid using the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.filling out the FAFSA

Vangent, a information management and strategic business solution company, announced that the “FAFSA on the Web” web portal received the highest citizen satisfaction score on the latest American Customer Satisfaction (ACSI) survey of U.S Federal Government 2009 news and information sites, according to a recent press release. Vangent co-designed, built, and helped operate the FAFSA web portal on the behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

Vangent has been working with the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) for more than 25 years, and in January 2010, they launched a new simplified form that includes text pop-ups, skip logic, and a IRS Data Match – a feature that automatically transfers and verifies application tax data with the IRA in real-time. Approximately 99% of all financial aid applications are submitted electronically via the FAFSA on the Web portal, which has greatly improved efficiencies.

The new and improved FAFSA on the Web portal has increased user satisfaction, as well as meeting the Obama Administration’s objectives to simplify the financial aid application process.

Don’t miss FAFSA deadlines!

  • For the 2009-2010 year, all FAFSA applications must be turned in by midnight Central Daylight time, on September 21, 2010.
  • For the 2010-2011 year, all FAFSA applications must be turned in by midnight Central Daylight time, on June 30, 2011.

More information on the FAFSA:

The Key to Filling out the FAFSA in 3 Steps


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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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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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