FASFA Q & A
What is FAFSA? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell Grant, Federal student loans and Federal Work-Study).
Starting this year, it is a requirement by the state of Texas that all students must either file the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or file an opt-out form in order to graduate this May. If a student is planning or considering attending a college, university, or trade school, it is in the best interest of your student to file the FAFSA in order to apply for government grants and institutional college scholarships. If they do not plan to pursue post-secondary education, they can see their counselor for an opt-out form. If the student is 18 or older, they can sign their own opt-out form. However, if they are not 18, they will need a parent or guardian to sign the opt-out form.
If a student does not qualify to file the FAFSA, they may file the TASFA, which is the Texas Application for State Financial Aid.
If a student decides NOT to file the FAFSA or TASFA, they can fill out an opt out form. They can access the form here, or go see their counselor to receive the form.
Azle High School has recently partnered with Going Merry, a FREE scholarship and financial aid platform, to help seniors and their parents fill out the FAFSA. Going Merry makes the FAFSA easier to complete by asking one question at a time as well as providing tips and guidance while filling out the FAFSA, similar to how TurboTax makes filing taxes an easier process. This program will make the FAFSA process much easier and will help the AHS Counseling Staff track each student’s FAFSA completion.
As part of this partnership, Going Merry automatically created an account for your student. They should receive an email from Going Merry in their Azle ISD Gmail account with temporary login information.
Once your student receives their login information, I encourage you and your student to log in and familiarize yourselves with the platform. There are two key things you’ll be able to do:
- Apply for the FAFSA, using a more user-friendly version of the government form: FAFSA Made Easier. The Going Merry form is FREE! For most students, the FAFSA requires parental information, so your student will likely need your help to fill out the complete form.
- Find and apply for scholarships. These are private/independent scholarships sponsored by companies or non-profits, to help students pay for college. Again, this service is also COMPLETELY FREE!
- Get an FSA ID. Get a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN) by filling out the short application at FSA ID HERE. Write this down somewhere you will remember.
- Your Social Security Number
- Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
- You will also need most of the above information for your parent(s)
Go to https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/create-account/launch and create an account by providing a few pieces of information such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
On the front page of the SAR, you'll find a figure called the expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is an indicator of your family’s financial strength. It is sent to your state scholarship agency as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA. They use this number to determine your financial aid award. Learn more about the EFC.
You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online.
- Option 1: Go to www.fafsa.gov and click Start Here to log in.
- Option 2: Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
If your FAFSA is still being processed, wait a few days before checking the status again.
Your FAFSA information is shared with the colleges and/or career schools you list on the application. The financial aid office at a school uses your information to figure out how much federal student aid you may receive at that school. If the school has its own funds to use for financial aid, it might use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for that aid as well. (The school might also have other forms it wants you to fill out to get school aid, so check with the financial aid office to be sure.)
Your information also goes to your state higher education agency, as well as to agencies of the states where your chosen schools are located. Many states have financial aid funds that they give out based on FAFSA information.
So, your FAFSA helps you apply for federal, state, and school financial aid. Not bad for a form that takes students an average of less than half an hour to complete!
The office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You’ll get your SAR within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA. Be sure to look over your SAR to make sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSA. Find out more about the Student Aid Report, its purpose, how the type of FAFSA you file determines when you’ll get the SAR, and what you should do with it.
The SAR won’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get. Instead, if you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper aid offer, sometimes called an award letter, telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school. The timing of the aid offer varies from school to school and could be as early as springtime (awarding for the fall) or as late as immediately before you start school. It depends on when you apply and how the school prefers to schedule awarding of aid.
You’ll need to understand the aid that’s being offered (for instance, is it free money such as a grant, or is it a loan that you’ll have to pay back?), decide what aid you really need, and then respond to the school’s award letter within the deadline set by the school.
1. Scholarships and grants
Make sure you understand the conditions you must meet (for instance, you might have to maintain a certain grade-point average in order to continue receiving a scholarship, or your TEACH Grant might turn into a loan if you don’t teach for a certain number of years under specific circumstances).
You don’t have to pay the money back, but you do have to work for it, so take into account that that’ll mean less time for studying. However, research has shown that students who work part-time jobs manage their time better than those who don’t!
3. Federal student loans
You’ll have to repay the money with interest. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing (accumulating) interest until you leave school, so accept a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan.
4. Loans from your state government or your college
You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms of the loan might not be as good as those of a federal student loan. Be sure to read all the fine print before you borrow.
5. Private loans
You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms and conditions of the loan almost certainly will not be as good as those of a federal student loan.
The financial aid staff at your college or career school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be paid out. They also will tell you whether you need to fill out any more paperwork or meet other requirements. For instance, if you’re receiving a federal student loan for the first time, you should expect to be required to sign a promissory note and go through entrance counseling. Be sure to keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office so that you understand the whole process of receiving your aid.
After you complete the FAFSA, make sure you submit any additional financial aid forms that your colleges require. For example, some colleges require you to submit the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® or their own forms.
These are excellent articles that explain all the different circumstances in which parents can't or won't pay for college. You can find some help here: