College preparation planning: all about the FASFA part one

Financial aid for college can be confusing. Sno-Isle Libraries is partnering with Andrea Main of Main Education Consulting to provide a series of free college preparation planning programs at the Mariner, Mukilteo, and Snohomish Libraries this fall.

In advance of the college preparation programs, Sno-Isle teens brainstormed their best questions about college and Andrea answered them. Each week we feature new questions.

Will I need to fill out the FAFSA every year?

Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the starting point for need-based financial aid and must be completed each year. While each college has its own deadlines, the FAFSA application opens on October 1st each year for the following school year. That means, this year’s high school seniors, college freshmen, sophomores and juniors will complete their FAFSA application in October of 2017 for college they will attend in 2018/19. By submitting your application early, you maximize the amount of aid you can get.

What’s the difference between FAFSA and EFC?

The FAFSA  is the application for federal student aid. The FAFSA is used to determine a family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and, consequently, a family’s eligibility for need-based financial aid (federal, state and institutional).  The EFC is the least amount a family will pay for college, usually they will pay more. Since families must apply for federal need-based aid each year, a new FAFSA must be filed each year and the EFC is recalculated each year.

Even if I don’t think I’m eligible for financial aid, should I still fill out the FAFSA? I have heard that only low-income students are able to receive money.

The FAFSA will determine if you are eligible for federal aid.  However individual schools and states may use the information from your FAFSA to award their own aid.  If you are applying for merit-based aid (where family income is unrelated), your prospective college may still require that you submit a FAFSA to be eligible to receive that award.

Who is eligible to apply for federal aid through the FAFSA?

In general terms, to be eligible for federal student financial aid, you must

    • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
    • Have a valid Social Security Number.
    • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
    • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
    • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
    • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
    • Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
    • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid.

For more specific details regarding eligibility visit the FAFSA website.

If you are ineligible for federal student financial aid due to immigration status, you may be eligible for Washington State financial aid through the free WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid) application. To determine your eligibility for WASFA, check here.

My parents are divorced. Do I need to report both of my parents’ incomes for the FAFSA?

No, you only need to report the income of the custodial parent—the parent with whom you lived for most of the previous 12 months (typically the parent who claimed the student as a dependent on his/her tax return).

My parents want to know if their retirement savings will count against us on the FAFSA?

While money in qualified retirement plans is not reported as an asset, pre-tax contributions to retirement (traditional 401k, 403b, IRA, etc.) are considered parental income as they are made with untaxed income. However, contributions to a Roth 401k or Roth IRA not added back into parental income as these are made with post-tax contributions.

Come to the Sno-Isle Libraries’ College Planning: Fundamentals of Financial Aid and Scholarships with Main Education Consulting to learn more about the FASFA.

You can also find more information about college planning on our life after high school page!

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One response to “College preparation planning: all about the FASFA part one”

  1. […] Financial aid for college can be confusing. Sno-Isle Libraries is partnering with Andrea Main of Main Education Consulting to provide a series of free college preparation planning programs at the Mariner, Mukilteo, Granite Falls and Snohomish Libraries this fall. Andrea provides personalized advisory services to individual high school students, and their families, as they navigate the college admissions process. She has over nine years of experience as a college admissions adviser. In 2017, Main Education Consulting was awarded Best of Everett’s Educational Consultant award. […]

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