12.12.10 | Top 5 End of year financial aid strategies

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Source: FAFSA blog

As we approach the end of calendar year 2010, it’s a good idea to turn our eyes to the future and start thinking about our 2008 financial aid efforts. Here are 5 strategies to help you make the most of the waning days of 2010 with payoffs in the year to come.

1. See an expert. Most community banks and credit unions offer access to a certified financial planner for little or no charge, making them a great, hidden resource for figuring out your finances. Take the opportunity and an hour or two on a weeknight or weekend to see one and review your personal finances. Get a sense for where you are and how your finances are currently set up.

2. Start writing scholarship essays. Scholarship season really starts in earnest in January of each year, and the sooner you can get your applications in to a scholarship foundation, the sooner you can move onto the next application. Do your research for which scholarships would be appropriate to apply to, and download their applications. The most time consuming part of the scholarship search is the essay, so start writing now!

3. Do your budget. January is often thought of as the time to embark on resolutions, but now is the time to plan for those resolutions so you can hit the ground running after the champagne’s gone.

4. Set goals. Set measurable, achievable goals for yourself in 2011, like a scholarship application a weekend. Be sure to have a calendar set up so you don’t miss any deadlines.

5. Get ready to file your FAFSA. The FAFSA process kicks off on January 1, but having your IRS 1040 mostly done will speed up the process, as will doing the FAFSA worksheets. Run through our FAFSA tutorials here on FAFSAonline.com and make notes of where you have questions – then contact your financial aid officer or attend a College Goal Sunday event to get those questions answered!

The FAFSA blog is sponsored in part by:

Five most recent FAFSA form help blog posts:

10.25.10 | FAFSA 2011-2012 Summary of Changes

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

As many of you may know, the 2011-2012 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available on January 1, 2011. In order to be prepared for this day, it is important that students, parents and financial aid officers become acquainted with the most recent changes.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) recently released their “Summary of Changes” for the 2011-2012 FAFSA. This document covers everything from changes in design to changes in the way questions are worded. Whether you are a student filing the FAFSA for the first time, or a seasoned financial aid professional, this information will help you approach this year’s FAFSA with the right information.

Summary of Changes, 2011-2012 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Colors – The colors are yellow for student information and purple for parent information

Elements added – New question #27 is added, for applicants who indicate they have earned a high school diploma. The question is worded as follows: What is the name of the high school where you received or will receive your high school diploma? Write in the high school name, and the city and state where the high school is located.

Elements deleted – Enrollment status questions (formerly, #30) has been removed.  The question about plans to become a teacher (a.k.a. the TEACH grant question, formerly #32) has been removed.

Other changes – State Deadlines have been updated on the FAFSA application.  The new deadlines will be available on FAFSAOnline.com on December 30, 2011.  Deadlines have changes this year for Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The post office box for mailing a FAFSA has been updated.

10.10.10 | Four Bizarre Things You didn’t Know about FAFSA

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff
  1. Federal law suspends your eligibility for federal student aid, if you have been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which you were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study).
  2. Even if you are 23 years old, living on your own, paying your own way…the Gov’t still views you as a dependent student…meaning they still use your parents’ income to determine your specific “financial need”…(my advice: just wait a year until you are 24 and considered an adult in the eye of the Feds). More information on what qualifies you as independent can be found here.
  3. If you transfer schools, you MUST update your FAFSA online. You will not be able to receive loans at your new school unless you do this.
  4. FAFSA is not a loan!!!! It is a government form that determines your eligibility for all types of aid, including loans.

Five most recent FAFSA form help blog posts:

10.08.10 | FAFSA Tip: Eligibility for Independent Student Status

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

I have received some inquiries about my previous blog: Four Bizarre things you did not know about the FAFSA.

What qualifies you as an Independent Student?

If one or any of the following apply to you, then you will be considered an Independent Student:

  1. You are enrolled in a Masters program, Doctorate Degree, or graduate Certification program
    • age does not matter, if you are enrolled in any of these types of programs you are considered and independent student
  2. You have a child or children that are your legal dependent(s)
    • you may have a family member etc. that is considered your dependent…he/she does not necessarily have to be a child
  3. You are married
  4. You are under the age of 24 and both of your parents are deceased
  5. You were a ward of your state until you were 18 years of age
  6. You are 24 years of age or older
  7. You are a Veteran of the United States Armed Force
  8. You were a foster child after the age of 13.
  9. You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.
  10. You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.

Want more details, visit: FAFSA Online : Independent Students

The most important aspect of this is to remember that your school has the right to reassess certain circumstances, a process called professional judgment.

Some students have no contact with their parents, and therefore cannot use their tax information for filing the FAFSA. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to go to your school’s financial aid office and ask them for help. Chances are, you’ll also need to bring plentiful documentation (rent, utilities, etc.) to prove that your situation is as you say it is. You’ll be asking for a professional judgment override on dependency status.

What this means is, if you’re under 24, in order to file as an independent, you must first go to your local courthouse and ask to appear before a judge to be ‘legally emancipated’ and apply as an independent student.

Update: We just wrote a pretty helpful blog about how people in situations like yours can get a FAFSA dependency change. For information on this, read Appealing Your FAFSA Dependency Status

More: When are the FAFSA Deadlines

Five most recent FAFSA form help blog posts:

09.13.10 | What the FAFSA? Words of Wisdom about the Financial Aid Form

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

In my previous post, I gave a quick run down of the types of financial aid that I can apply for to help finance my education. Applying for federal aid will be my first step, so I want to start preparing my FAFSA form.

Why do I need to fill out a FAFSA form?

In order to qualify for federal aid for students, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to the U.S. Department of Education. This form is used to calculate your financial aid eligibility based on the financial and demographic information for you and your family.

Once complete, the Department of Education will forward a record of the application to the school/schools you specify.

What can I do now to prepare my FAFSA?

While the FAFSA needs to be filed with your 2010 tax information (which you won’t get until at least January of next year), it is recommended that you get a head start on gathering the right information now. In fact, most of what you’ll need for the FAFSA can be taken care of now. You can also estimate your tax information based on this years forms, however, this is only recommended if you can make a very accurate guess.

Below is a check list for what you and your family can do now to prepare early for the college financial aid application process:

Financial Aid Deadlines: Begin gathering the deadlines for your financial aid applications. Each school may have different deadlines.

Tax Information: Grab your 2010 tax forms, and anything else you are preparing for 2011 as well. You’ll receive your W2′s in February of next year and you may want to update your FAFSA when that information arrives.

Asset and Demographic Information: This where you list the financial details about you and your family, including your assets and demographic information. For help with what this will entail, visit FAFSAOnline.com and send your parents here.

School List: You can tell the Department of Education to send your results to a maximum of 10 schools. You will have to list the schools by their school code, which can be found here: FAFSAOnline.com – School Code List. When you’re looking into schools and noting their deadlines, make sure you find their code as well.

FAFSA Pin: Both you and your parents need to sign up for a FAFSA Pin #. This number will be used to identify you throughout the application process, and you can get it early and put it away in a safe place!

Ok, now go! You can download the FAFSA form now. You may file it early, but you will have to then update the forms next year with your new tax information.

06.17.10 | Federal Direct Loans and Graduate School

Posted in FAFSA, Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

On July 1, 2010, the world as you know it is about to change. Okay, that’s not true. But student loans will be handled in a different fashion than in previous years. As a prospective graduate student, you might be wondering how the changes affect you.

Graduate Stafford: You can still receive a Graduate Stafford loan, however this loan will be originated by the federal government, and not a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) bank. You will still apply by filling out your FAFSA. You can receive subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford Loans for graduate school, the primary differences being that unsubsidized Stafford loans will being accruing interest immediately and are not based on need.

Graduate PLUS: When Stafford loans aren’t enough, you should look into a graduate PLUS loan, a federally originated loan that allows you to borrow up to the cost of attendance. The Graduate PLUS loan is based on credit, not need, and carries a fixed interest rate of 7.9 percent.

Remember, to receive federal direct loans, you need to fill out your FAFSA. If federal aid isn’t enough, consider an alternative student loan.

05.20.10 | How to Make Changes to your Financial Aid Status

Posted in FAFSA by Student Loan Network Staff

For many, FAFSA time has come and gone (for those of you procrastinators – better hurry, June is the recommended deadline for filing the 2010-2011 FAFSA).However, if you have already submitted your FAFSA, you might be wondering what to do if you need to make a change that could affect your aid.

If you have suffered an economic hardship,  contact your financial aid office for a review. If you can prove during this review that you, or a parent, has suffered a job loss or costly medical setback (bring in documentation), then you may be able to receive increased aid.

If you decide to go to a school that was not listed on your FAFSA: You can add a school to your FAFSA after the fact. First, if you have your pin number from the Department of Education, you can visit www.fafsa.ed.gov and select the option to Add or Delete a School Code. If you can’t find your PIN, you can use your Student Aid Report, and call the Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243.  You will need your Social Security number, Data Release Number (listed on your Aid Report) and your transaction number (also listed on the SAR)

If you are changing your dependency status: This can be tricky. The only way to change from a dependent student to an independent student (provided you don’t meet the FAFSA independent student guidelines) is through a dependency override. This can only be accomplished in extreme circumstances, such as abandonment or if neither parent is unable to support you. Contact your financial aid office for more information.

ScholarshipPoints code: FAFSACH

05.12.10 | Time is Running Out to File Your FAFSA

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

If you aren’t already aware, June is the recommended deadline to file your FAFSA for the 2010-2011 academic year. Although you can file it any time during the year, it is important that your school receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) early on in their financial aid planning process. The later you wait to file your FAFSA, the lower your chance to be awarded the maximum amount of financial aid possible.

For the most part, this refers to eligibility for school-based financial aid more than federal. Many colleges use the information contained in your SAR to determine your financial need and subsequently award funds based on this information. Thus, you’re only reducing your chance to get extra money for school by waiting to file your FAFSA.

File Your FAFSA Now >>

05.06.10 | Can I Apply to a School that Wasn’t Listed on my FAFSA?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Did you know you can list up to ten schools on your FAFSA form? Most people only tab 2-3, and very few people use up all ten spots. Unfortunately, some people don’t realize until after they have submitted their FAFSA that the college they want (or need) to attend wasn’t listed.

Fortunately, you are not out of luck, and you can add a school to your FAFSA after the fact. Let me show you how:

First, if you have your pin number from the Department of Education, you can visit www.fafsa.ed.gov and select the option to Add or Delete a School Code.

If you can’t find your PIN, you can use your Student Aid Report, and call the Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243. (If you don’t have your report, the DOE can provide you with a duplicate.) You will need the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • The Data Release Number (listed on your Aid Report)
  • Your transaction number (also listed on the SAR)

If you listed the full ten schools on your original FAFSA, both of the aforementioned processes will require you to remove one of the previously named colleges from your list.

04.19.10 | Tax Day is past, do you need to amend your FAFSA?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a pleasant Patriots Day! I’d like to take a second today and remind you that if your (or your parents’) taxes for 2009 ended up being different than what you filed on your FAFSA, you can actually file an amendment now and correct the information.

Why this is useful:

Did you end up making less money over last year than you thought? If you did, this can actually increase the amount of federal aid you receive for your education. It isn’t uncommon for many parents and families to file their FAFSA with the previous years taxes (in this case, 2008) just to get the application in, and then amend the information once their taxes are filed for the current year. If this is how you prepared your FAFSA and some income was lost in the meanwhile, your financial aid package could get quite a bit bigger.

If you amend your FAFSA… make sure to notify your school’s financial aid department of the changes. You can also look into a financial aid appeal if you feel that you are not receiving enough aid for the school year. I personally used financial aid appeals twice during my time in college and usually got about $4,000 more in grants/loans than what was originally awarded to me.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the holiday!