Your Step-By-Step Guide to FAFSA
Applying for financial aid might seem like an overwhelming process with a million different steps, but it’s easier than you think! Once you get your documents and data together, start an application and check for updates, you’re good to go! Keep reading for an in-depth walkthrough of the FAFSA process.
What is the FAFSA?
Did you know that you could be eligible for free money? Yes, it’s true! Students who didn’t fill out their FAFSA in 2018 missed out on $2.6 billion that could have funded their education. With your help, that won’t be you this year!
You’ll want to squeeze every possible dollar when you apply for aid. So, how does the FAFSA factor in? FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Once submitted, it provides access to federal aid in the form of scholarships, grants, loans and work-study opportunities.
What’s the Difference Between Scholarships, Grants, Loans and Work-Study?
Scholarships are free money that Georgia State and external sources offer. You aren’t required to pay back scholarships, and they are often awarded based on academic criteria like our Merit Scholarships that consider factors like recalculated high school GPA and academic rigors to determine eligibility.
Grants tend to be free money that the government gifts to students with financial needs. The Pell Grant is one of the most popular ways students pay for school.
Loans are money that students can borrow from federal or private banks. Students can choose from subsidized, unsubsidized or plus loans to offset the cost of their education.
Subsidized loans are provided to students with a financial need, while unsubsidized loans are awarded to students without a financial need. Plus loans are need-based, and the guardian would apply to borrow the aid for the student.
Work-study is another option that can finance tuition and provide practical experience. Georgia State offers on and off-campus opportunities that can help support living expenses and provide vocational opportunities that align with college studies.
So How Do I Apply for the FAFSA?
It’s a pretty straightforward process. Below are the steps to completing your FAFSA:
- Create an Account gathering your SSN, phone number and/or email to create an FSA ID
- Collect necessary documents, including your guardian’s IRS W2 tax documents
- Begin FAFSA by adding the correct school year, student demographics, colleges and school code (Georgia State’s school code is 001574)
- Determine your correct dependency status
- Fill out the Parent Demographics section regardless of relationship
- Fill out financial information (if your taxes are done, use the IRS Data Retrieval tool to simplify this step!)
- Sign and submit!
So, What’s Next?
You did the bulk of the work by completing your FAFSA! However, there are a few things that you should do to prepare for the costs of school.
First, check out your financial aid estimate, which you will see on the confirmation page after you submit the FAFSA. This is only an estimate of what you may receive based on your FAFSA submission. After you’re admitted to your college of choice, they will send an official award letter.
Next, you should be aware of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Not to be mistaken for the money you owe, EFC is an index number that financial aid uses to calculate your need.
Students might forget this next step, but it’s your interest to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Don’t wait until the school year starts; get a head start and apply now. Consider checking this free tool to apply for scholarships.
Keep an eye out for any financial aid updates. Georgia State’s Student Financial Services will reach out to you concerning the status of your FAFSA.
Once your FAFSA is submitted, you can make changes. With your account username and password (FSA ID), you can add colleges and correct any typos in your application.
There you have it! You just crossed your FAFSA off your list.