01.16.12 | Check out the FAFSA Help Guide eBook

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

FAFSA Help Guide eBookIt’s FAFSA season again, and thanks to FAFSAOnline.com, we’re providing students and families with a downloadable FAFSA Help Guide to the online form. This detailed guide will answer the most common questions about filing the FAFSA, as well as provide some useful tips to help you get the most financial aid. Best of all, it’s free!

What information can you find in the FAFSA guide?

  • Filing your FAFSA before taxes
  • Tax credit information
  • Determining a student’s dependency status
  • Defining a parent
  • Using IRS Data Retrieval

And much more!
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01.10.12 | 2012-2013 FAFSA: What’s changed?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, News by Student Loan Network Staff

Father and Daughter on ComputerThe Department of Education has been making great strides in streamlining the often-confusing online FAFSA form. This year, students and parents should find it much easier to navigate through the process, as well as collect the information necessary to file the form.

Here’s what you can expect to find in the improved 2012-2013 FAFSA:

  • Easier online navigation- The sections and questions have been reordered to make it easier to navigate. This best part of this is that the system now knows where you left off, so if you fill out the form over a few sessions, there’s no more searching for your next steps. Plus, it’s “skip logic” has been improved. This means that the system will eliminate unnecessary questions based on what you’ve already answered, making less work for you!
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11.29.11 | IRS Data Retrieval Tool for FAFSA

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

UPDATE – 3/14/12: Recently, the Department of Education sent an email to families who filed their FAFSA and either estimated their taxes, or selected “will file” to encourage them to go back and use the IRS data retrieval tool. Unfortunately, the email gave some families quite a shock, saying “Now that the federal tax filing deadline has passed and you have probably filed your 2011 tax returns, it is time for you to update your FAFSA”. If you received one of these emails, don’t fret! The tax filing deadline is still April 17th. The point of the email was to make sure users complete their FAFSA with accurate information, and in the process, it apparently got a little jumbled. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, there is still time, but do make sure to update your FAFSA once your taxes have been processed!

» Find more up-to-date information on the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for FAFSA at FAFSAOnline.com.


The IRS data Retrieval tool is a helpful resource for many parents and students filing the FAFSA. The tool allows first-time and returning applicants to pull their tax data directly from the Internal Revenue Service in order to auto-fill the tax portion of the form.

Who can use the tool

The tool works for about 80% of all filers, but in some special cases, tax information should still be inputted manually. If you meet the criteria below, then feel free to use the tool! Filers need:

  • A valid SSN
  • A filed tax return for the previous year
  • An unchanged marital status as of December 31 of the prior year

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11.09.11 | Financial Aid Basics

Posted in Consolidation, FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Financial Aid 101 eBookJanuary is quickly approaching, and you know what that means? FAFSA season. Filing your FAFSA is a critical step in the financial aid process. However, if you have never applied for financial aid before, everything can get overwhelming, and fast! This is why you should know your options beforehand. You can then apply directly to a loan lender.

Major types of financial aid:

  • Private scholarships and grants
  • Federal grants (Pell, Academic Competitiveness Grant, SMART, FSEOG)
  • Federal student loans (Stafford, Parent PLUS, Graduate PLUS, Perkins Loans)
  • Federal work study
  • Private Student Loans

How to apply:

Scholarships and grants
Private scholarships and grants have individual applications and deadlines. While the application process can be time-consuming, every little bit helps!

Federal aid
The FAFSA is your application for all of the federal types of financial aid listed above. Students need to submit it starting January 1st of each year, and the sooner you file, the better!

Private loans
If you’ve exhausted your scholarship and federal aid resources, then it’s time to apply for a private loan. Each lender will have different interest rates and benefits, so it helps to compare your loan options to find what’s best for you.

For more information on the different types of financial aid and for a helpful financial aid calendar, check out our Financial Aid 101 eBook.

09.02.11 | Back to School Financial Tips Special

Posted in College Life, FAFSA, Financial Aid, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

As you head back to school, some back to school financial aid tips…

  1. Make a budget BEFORE the semester begins. Figure out what kind of money you’ll be able to earn and what you’ll be spending and stick to it.
  2. Team up with a roommate, hallmate, or friends to enforce each others budgets. The power of the group works. Social financial apps like Wesabe, Mint.com, and Geezeo can help with this, too. Set a goal that you publish among your friends and stick to it. Set rewards for achieving those goals.
  3. Take a class online while everyone is out partying – or during a break.  If you take one class during one spring break and one class each summer – you can graduate a semester early!
  4. Go for a lot of walks on campus. You’ll meet a ton of new people, and you won’t have to spend money to do it. Being visible is the easiest way to meet new people. Want to meet lots of new people really, really fast? Volunteer at any kind of event, work at the help desk, etc. Be helpful and you’ll make amazing, fast connections that often endure long past college.
  5. Everything marked free isn’t. Beware of any free offer that requires you to sign up for anything. Not saying it’s bad, just know what you’re signing for like a stealth. Some of the best conversations you’ll have are on playgrounds. Hang out at places like that vs. cafes or other money-spending venues. Want to make your own game socially? Go off campus, wander around (with safety in mind) and find the best hangout spots in the town, then share them with friends. Museums, galleries or the city gardens as examples.
  6. Check your campus email every day. Financial aid offices often send notices to campus email addresses. Don’t miss a bill. If you’re technically savvy, just forward it to your other webmail account.
  7. Buy and bring to campus an indoor dryer rack. You’ll cut your laundry bill in half and the rack will pay for itself in weeks, especially if it’s around $18. You can find magnetic and closet-based systems for as little as $10 online.
  8. Bring resealable containers. I’m not saying bring them into the dining hall or anything but, you know.. Make sure you don’t skip meals if you’ve paid for them. That’s just throwing money away.
  9. Have a small lockbox in your dorm room. Keep your checks, debit card, etc. in there and locked up. Make it a combo lock so that if you lose your keys, you’re not out of luck. And it’ll make you think twice about reaching for the good stuff when you have an impulsive thought.
  10. If you have a student ID card that’s tied to any kind of financial account, punch a hole in it, stick it on your keychain, and put your keychain on a lanyard.
  11. Opt out of as many fees and unnecessary bills as possible, such as campus phone and TV service. Seriously, you have the Internet. What else do you need? Use free applications like Skype, change your mobile plan to unlimited calling if you call home a lot (and you probably will if you’re a first year student), use Hulu.com for television, and avoid those extra, unnecessary expenses.
  12. Shop around online for better textbook prices.
  13. If you’re living off campus and on a partial or no meal plan, sign up for the supermarket loyalty card plans, coupon hunt online, and get a decent meal plan together. Planning ahead a little will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on food.
  14. Set up an affiliate program during college and get your personal professional web presence going as soon as you can. You’ll have more free time in college than you will after college, so take the time to set up your blog, web site, LinkedIn profile etc. and develop professional contacts early. By the time you graduate, you’ll be way ahead of everyone else playing the resume cannon game. Get known for something in your field of study or focus early on.
  15. Keep hunting for scholarships! Pick a time each week, 1 hour per week, and apply for a new scholarship each week. I guarantee after a year you’ll be happy you did. Better yet, get some friends together and make it a social thing.

06.18.11 | What are Title IV Loans?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

There are a lot of different types of student loans out there, so sorting through all of them can be tough, especially when there can be many names for the same thing. You might be surprised to find that Title IV loans and federal loans are one in the same! However, the term Title IV is applied to more than simply loans. Keep reading to learn more.
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05.09.11 | Perkins Loans 411

Posted in FAFSA, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Perkins loans are great options for those students who are eligible. They have low interest rates and can be used for both undergraduate and graduate studies. But before you accept the loan, make sure you get all of the facts.

So, here’s what you can expect from a Perkins Loan. These loans are federally funded and only available to the students in highest need. They differ from other federal government loans in that they are dispersed through different lenders. While other federal loans are dispersed through the government, Perkins Loans are the only ones to come directly from your college.

For each year of school, students are allowed to take out up to $4,000 ($8,000 for graduate students). Typically, the loans are dispersed to you in two installments, one for each semester. The funds either get sent directly to you via check or applied directly to your school account.

Learn more about Perkins loans borrowing limits, interest rates and repayment at the StudentLoanNetwork.com.

Unfortunately, not all students will qualify for Perkins loans. So for these students, here are some other options.

Scholarships

One such option is searching for scholarships. While the the payout for scholarships is usually minimal when compared to the time spent applying, any little bit can help. Plus, unlike loans, scholarships never need to be repaid. To make it easy to keep track of scholarships and their deadlines, try keeping a spreadsheet so that you know which you’ve applied to and when to apply next. StudentScholarshipSearch.com is a great resource and makes it easy to help you find relevant scholarships; plus, there are new ones posted daily, because let’s face it, you’re busy enough being students.

Private Student Loans

If scholarships don’t pan out, then consider getting private student loans. While we typically tell students to exhaust all of their federal loan options first, getting a private loan can be a great option to cover the remainder of your expenses. Just like any other big financial decisions, it’s best to shop around before making your final choice, so make sure to compare your loan options as this can be incredibly beneficial.

So if your Perkins loans did not cover enough of your school expenses, then no worries, these other options can really help bridge the gap in your financial aid.

04.26.11 | Appealing a Financial Aid Offer – Can it be Done?

Posted in FAFSA, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

For most families, the act of opening the financial aid offer letter is a harrowing one. In just a few short sentences they will see how much a college or university is willing to offer in the way of student loans and scholarships. But what happens when that figure is too low?

Believe it or not, a student aid package that offered less than expected does not necessarily mean the end of the road. In some cases, a borrower can appeal to the school for more money. So how can this be done?

When to Appeal

For starters, strike the word “negotiate” from your vocabulary. If you call a financial aid office and tell them you want to negotiate your student loan package, it will be a very short phone call.  You are not negotiating. You are “appealing.” There is a difference. The first step is to call the financial aid office and inquire about the process of submitting an appeal. Most likely, you will be asked to write a letter explaining, in detail, why you feel the aid package should be reconsidered.

Your appeal letter will explain, in brief, the grounds on which you are appealing the financial aid offer. You should decide early on whether this an appeal for need or for merit, or for both. If it is an appeal for need, you must demonstrate to the school that your federal aid package simply isn’t enough for you to afford attending the school. More than likely, a successful appeal based on need will cover a recent change in your financial situation, such as a series of expensive medical bills or a parent losing his or her job. You will need evidence to back up your claim, including copies of bills and pay stubs.

You may also appeal on the grounds of merit. An exceptional student may be eligible for various scholarships or grants. Look into the criteria for these awards. The best evidence to appeal on these grounds is a stronger scholarship offer from a similar school.

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03.10.11 | Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

One of the most common issues students deal with revolves around the FAFSA filing status. Many students feel they should be considered independent, yet the FAFSA still requires them to file as dependent. Under special circumstances, students have the ability to appeal their dependency status. For those students who believe their circumstances qualify them for financial independence (for FAFSA purposes), I’m going to walk you through how to do this, including what documents you may need. If you don’t know your current status, read our post on Dependent VS. Independent Status.

What types of situations can be appealed?

First thing’s first, if your sole reason for filing an appeal is that you support yourself or that your parents refuse to support your education, then you will not qualify for an appeal. However, other circumstances are considered. Some common reasons for appealing dependency include:

  • Abandonment
  • Danger of physical or mental abuse
  • Your parents (or parent for single parent family) are incarcerated
  • Your supporting parent is deceased and you have no contact with the other

Keep in mind, these are not the only reasons that are accepted as schools differ in their requirements. If you’re not sure if your particular situation qualifies, you should contact a financial aid officer from your school.

How to appeal

Each school has specific guidelines for the appeals process, and in some cases, there are school-specific forms you will need to fill out. Most of the time you can find the qualifications and forms on the school’s website. However, the one thing that most schools ask for is a letter from the student explaining their circumstances. In this letter, make sure to be specific! After all, you’re arguing your case, so the more information you provide, the better. Included in this letter should be 1) why your parents aren’t helping 2) information regarding your income and what your money is allotted for and 3) your educational goals, explaining why more money is necessary to achieve them through your institution. Each situation is different, so tailor the letter to you and what your needs are. Along with this letter, it is important to provide as much documentation as possible to back up your claim. Acceptable documentation includes (but is not limited to):

  • Letters attesting to a student’s situation: Most schools require students to submit letters from independent sources. These can be from almost anyone who knows your story- ministers, friends, non-parental relatives, guidance counselors, attourneys etc. These letters should explain the writer’s relationship to the student, and like the student’s letter, provide as much detail as possible about the student’s situation. Depending on school guidelines, these may need to be notarized.
  • Bank statements
  • W2s
  • Court documents/ police reports
  • Documentation of parental incarceration
  • Death certificates

What now?

Once all of your required documents have been submitted, all you can do is wait. Depending on your school, your appeal will be reviewed by a financial aid officer or panel of officers who will work with the Department of Education to change your status (hopefully). It is possible that more documentation may be required, and if this is the case, you will be contacted. If you do need to provide more, don’t panic! Simply provide the requested documents and wait it out. Note: If you are approved for a certain year, this does not mean that you are approved for upcoming years as well. For future academic years, you will need to appeal again!

Navigating the FAFSA to get adequate financial aid can be a nightmare for some students, so appealing dependency status may be the difference between going to school or not. If you have any specific questions about your school’s process, they should be directed to your financial aid office. Good luck!

02.23.11 | Understanding the Financial Aid Roadmap

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

Applying for and receiving financial aid can be a long and confusing process, but don’t fret, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled information on all of the steps necessary for receiving financial aid to help answer your most common questions. The financial aid roadmap outlines all of the steps you should take, from how to fill out your FAFSA to tips on comparing financial aid packages.

So, what are the steps?

  1. Prepare for, and fill out your FAFSA form
  2. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)
  3. Compare your award letters and financial aid packages
  4. Review your federal loan options and contact your financial aid office to accept
  5. Apply for additional aid to cover your full cost of tuition

Now that you have the entire process at your fingertips, make sure to start early! It’s important to file your FAFSA as soon as possible so that you can receive maximum aid and be on your way to that college degree.