10.03.12 | What color is the FAFSA form this year

Every year we get the same question, so here is your answer:

For the 2013–2014 year, the FAFSA will be green, with a purple section for parents.

For the current year, 2012–2013 the FAFSA is orange.

In previous years:

  • 2011–2012 FAFSA was Yellow
  • 2010–2011 FAFSA was Blue

For detailed information on completing the FAFSA, visit FAFSAonline.

02.11.11 | To Claim or not to Claim: College Loans and Taxes

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

Student Loan Taxes Can be ConfusingIt’s tax season again and one of the most common questions from students right now is whether or not they have to claim their financial aid (grants, loans, or scholarships) on their taxes. So to clarify, students have to claim on their IRS tax forms any money gained from services for which they received payment, investments, and self-employment income. Generally, amounts spent on education, scholarships, grants, and loans are non-taxable, though there are some exceptions. To note, most tax-free treatment of income, credits, and deductions require the student to be a degree candidate, but not all. (more…)

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.

03.31.10 | I’m going for a PhD, can I get federal student aid?

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

Yes, and in fact… you can get a lot more per year than when you were an undergraduate. Did you know that the lifetime limit for borrowing federal student aid is $138,500 for most PhD candidates? If you are going for a medical PhD, it’s even higher at $224,000. That’s a stunning amount of low interest loans you can borrow with extremely generous repayment options available to make sure you don’t go bankrupt right out of graduate/medical school. (more…)

03.16.10 | Federal Aid for Students “Without Need”

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

In my experience as a former college student, and seeing the individual cases of friends and peers going through the financial aid process, I saw that in some cases, the FAFSA doesn’t always tell a clear picture of a student’s financial situation. Often, parents’ income will dilute the amount of aid that a student would otherwise receive toward their education, regardless of the fact that the parents’ money may or may not be used to pay for their child’s schooling.

As a personal example, my parents owned a small business which technically makes a good amount of money on paper, but the reality is the net income is far less. Between paying salaries, benefits, building rent and fees, and other related costs, the profit was very slim compared to the revenue. Thus, when I would file my FAFSA each year, it would look like my family could afford a lot more than the reality of the situation.

Even if your family technically makes too much money, there are still two sources of federal financial aid that can be used toward your education: the unsubsidized Stafford loan and the Parent PLUS loan. If you have not read my blogs on federal Stafford loans or Parent PLUS loans, I recommend doing so because they contain a lot of useful information about the interest rates and other considerations.

In addition, I recommend pursuing scholarships and grants. StudentScholarshipSearch.com and ScholarshipPoints.com are excellent resources to find money for school that do not need to be paid back. Further, most of the scholarships are need-blind, meaning you don’t have to demonstrate financial need to qualify for them. After these methods, if you still have costs left over that need to be covered, you should consider a private student loan.

If you are in the situation of worrying about how to pay for school because of parental income throwing off your FAFSA, don’t stress yourself out too much. As listed above, there are a lot of different sources of funding for your education. I went through all four years of college working part-time and diligently planning out my financial aid to make sure I would be able to cover everything; it’s not easy, but getting financial aid “without need” is entirely doable.

ScholarshipPoints Redemption Code: NEEDAID2010

Image Credit to lovesteph83 on Flickr

03.02.10 | Why get a Federal Stafford Loan?

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

First off, if you haven’t filed your FAFSA yet… get on it! Many schools’ deadlines have already arrived for financial aid, and the rest are all due within the next month. Without the information contained in your Student Aid Report (SAR) submitted to your school, they can’t begin to put together your aid package.

OK — PSA aside, let’s talk a little about Stafford loans. If you’ve read my Stafford Loans, in Plain English blog (and I hope you have… it has good stuff in it), you know the basics.

Saving Money

To use an analogy, a Stafford loan is like a pair of designer jeans you happened upon in a discount store. They have a lot of value, and cost much less than if you bought them at their original store (or in the case of loans, applied for a private student loan instead.)

Stafford loans are the most desirable type of loans that you can take out for your education due to their low, fixed interest rates. In contrast, private student loans generally have higher, variable interest rates that fluctuate with the economy and can end up costing you ridiculous amounts of interest. So, if you need to take out a loan… try to make it a Stafford. It will save your money in the long run.

02.12.10 | FAFSA and You

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

To open, I’d like to ask a simple question: Have you filed your FAFSA yet? If no, you should know that the FAFSA is one of the most valuable financial aid tools in a student’s arsenal (besides scholarships and grants, which are the best) because it shows the government and your school that you need money for college.

In the eyes of your future school, neglecting to file a FAFSA is equivalent to leaving a gigantic tip on on a small meal – you only do it because you don’t care, or money is no object. Depending on your level of need, there is potential to get a significant portion of your cost of attendance financed at attractive interest rates, and/or qualify for a Pell Grant, which you do not need to pay back. Also, the FAFSA applies to both undergraduate AND graduate students.

So why the urgency? “I read on the Government website that my FAFSA isn’t actually due until June 30, right?” — Technically yes, but the real answer is no. In the case of colleges and universities, the financial aid department of your school will actually set a separate financial aid deadline in order to give themselves enough time to put together everyone’s aid packages.

The bottom line: The longer you wait to file your FAFSA, the less chance you have of receiving an excellent financial aid package from your school. Also, be on the lookout for a separate school-only financial aid form – sometimes they require more than just the FAFSA to evaluate your need; you can contact your financial aid office to ask if there are more forms involved.

One last thing! Don’t forget to send your FAFSA to all the schools you applied to. When you are completing the application, there will be an option toward the end to add the receiving schools by school code… just make sure you get them all in there and you will be A-OK paperwork-wise when your school begins to review financial need.

ScholarshipPoints Redemption Code: FAFSA2K10

07.20.09 | What does federal aid consist of?

Posted in FAFSA, Federal Work-Study, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

When you hear the term “federal student aid” that can be classified into one of three categories.

Grants: Free money that doesn’t have to be repaid, except in some cases when you withdraw from school.

Work-study: You earn money to pay for your education.

Loans: You borrow money for school, which you must repay with interest.