I'm a big "How to . . . " guy. I must have a hundred how-to books in my library. In the spirit of being self-sufficient, I enjoy learning new tricks of the various trades out there. If you're a high school senior waiting for your decisions to come in, or (more likely) you're trying to figure out where to get the money to pay for your higher education, then here's a very helpful how-to article that just might help.
Matthew Falduto tells us how:
The U.S. Department of Education administers the Federal Pell Grant program. Pell Grants are based on need. The application for the Pell Grant requires financial information about the student and, if the student is considered dependent, his or her parents. The Pell Grant application is called the FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. There are four ways to obtain a FAFSA.
- A student may request that the U.S. Department of Education send the FAFSA. To do so, the student should call 1-800-4-FED-AID or write to Federal Student Aid Information Center, PO Box 84, Washington, D.C. 20044. The student should be certain to specify the award year she is requesting, i.e. 2006-2007.
- The financial aid office of all postsecondary schools should be able to supply the student with a FAFSA. Most schools will have stamped their FAFSAs with their specific school code. Also, most schools have financial aid advisors who can help the student fill out the application.
- High schools and local libraries often have FAFSAs as well. A high school student should contact her high school counselor to see what assistance she may be able to offer. Many libraries put the FAFSAs near the tax forms, but if they're not there, ask at the information desk.
- The recommended way to fill out a FAFSA, however, is online. The student should go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and follow the instructions. If the student is in a time crunch, the web route is definitely the way to go as online FAFSAs are processed much more quickly than the paper versions. It is possible to save an incomplete FAFSA and return to it later. This is especially useful when the student realizes he or she needs that information from the parent's 1040 tax form!
Federal Pell Grants are one of the best types of student aid available since, unlike student loans, the grant does not have to be repaid. Even federal student loans can take a long time to pay back. A FAFSA is a must for every college student in financial need. One note: pay attention to the FAFSA deadline! Don't miss out on free money for college because of turning in paperwork late.
Federal Pell Grant eligibility doesn't always work out - if it turns out that you aren't eligible because your FAFSA EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) is too high, or if the student grant is not enough money to cover your tuition expenses, don't give up on your college dreams. Federal Pell Grant qualifications don't work for everybody! Instead, look at other scholarship resources. I highly recommend The Scholarship and Grant Guide, which has the information you need on thousands of hard-to-find scholarships and grants.
I hope that my recent postings on financial aid have been helpful. Be sure to check the College Confidential discussion forum for much more real-world insight into the finer points of dealing with this critical issue.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.