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  • FAFSA 101

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    The federal government awarded more than $125 billion in financial aid last year. If you want a share of next year's funds, you must complete the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).

    What is the FAFSA?

    The FAFSA is a long (roughly 100 questions), comprehensive document. You only need to submit a single FAFSA; the government shares the information with your chosen schools. Most of the questions ask for details about you and your family's income and assets, and some ask for things like the size of your household and how many family members currently attend school.

    The government analyzes your application to determine how much money your family can afford to pay for your education. The figure they arrive at is called your expected family contribution (EFC).

    When do I complete a FAFSA?

    Students may complete a FAFSA any time after January 1st. The schools to which you apply will use the results to build an award package for fall of that calendar year and for spring and summer of the next calendar year.

    Take note: A student must complete a FAFSA for each year of school they will attend. But it's not as time consuming as you think, particularly if you complete your FAFSA online (which we strongly recommend). That way, last year's answers remain on the form and you can simply make necessary updates.

    What types of aid may I receive?

    Basically, it comes down to three varieties: federally– (and state–) sponsored grants, loans and work–study (funds for a part–time job at your school). Your awards will vary from school to school, in size and combination of aid types.

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