03.03.09 | I’ve Filed My FAFSA, Now What?
It was Benjamin Franklin that quipped, nothing is certain but death and taxes, but in the world of financial aid the FAFSA is at the top of that short list. Completing your FAFSA is an absolute must. Without it I can tell you with great certainty that you will not receive federal grants or loans, so kudos to you for getting that done.
For those who have not yet completed the FAFSA, or wish to review our tips for effectively filing your FAFSA, in order to maximize your financial aid benefit package, (click here). Remember, you can always resubmit your FAFSA with updated data, which may lower your EFC (we’ll discuss Expected Family Contribution in greater detail shortly).
For the rest of you that completed and submitted your FAFSA and are wondering what to do next; you’ll have to wait as the Department of Education processes your application. When they’re finished they will send both you and the schools you highlighted on the FAFSA a three page report called a Student Aid Report (SAR).
The SAR is a report of what the government believes you can afford to pay out of pocket for college in the form of EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. This number is located in the top right hand corner. The lower the EFC number the greater the financial need.
As mentioned, the SAR is also sent to the colleges of your choice (up to six schools max), from which they create a financial aid awards letter detailing what aid they’re able to offer you. You will most likely receive this awards letter in the mail.
The awards letter is a comprehensive breakdown of all school related expenses, scholarship and grant money you qualify to receive, work-study eligibility, as well as the financial resources the school feels you have at your disposal to pay for one year of attendance. They also give recommendations as to the best loan options available.
The most common loan option students take advantage of when paying for school is the Stafford loan, which is divided into two categories, subsidized and unsubsidized.
Subsidized Stafford loans are awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged interest before you begin repayment or during periods of deferment. The federal government “subsidizes” (or pays) the interest during these times. No payments are expected on the loan while you are enrolled as a full or half time student.
Unsubsidized Stafford loans are not awarded based on financial need. Any eligible student can take out Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. You will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed, to the time the loan is repaid in full. No payments are expected on the loan while you are enrolled as a full or half time student.
For the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans, for undergraduate students, is fixed at 5.6%. If you fall into the unsubsidized category you will be extended a 6.8% fixed interest rate.
Private loans have also become a very attractive alternative these days with the prime rate at a 55-year low. Most private loans do require a co-signer. But the key is to send your FAFSA to as many schools as possible in hopes of fielding some attractive offers and limiting the amount of funds you need to borrow.
If you list multiple schools on your FAFSA you can use one school’s offer (awards letter) against another to try and land a better deal. Most schools generally set a May 1 deadline, which is why the financial aid officers refer to April as haggle month. Students and parents generally try to haggle for a better deal before the May 1 deadline.
So as you can see the FAFSA is just the beginning of the financial aid process, with many more steps in tow. But unlike the little engine that could, which repeated its motto I-think-I-can, as it climbed over that mountain top, I-know-you can! I know you can get thru the financial aid process, although sometimes it can seem daunting and overwhelming. You can do it, I just know you can.
For all you hungry scholarshippoints members out there enjoy this code worth 10 points, FAFSADONE.
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