When choosing a college or graduate school to attend, the greatest limiting factor may not be the course of study, the location, or the number of friends who will accompany you there – rather, it often comes down to affordability. Unless you are very well-heeled or your parents are readily willing to front the entire cost of your tuition, you will most likely have to apply for financial aid to cover the costs.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The form on fafsa.ed.gov includes information on State aid deadlines as well as tips on how to best undergo the torture of filling out the Federal application.
It is likely best to complete the application online at www.fafsa.gov. However, you are also welcome to fill out the form manually by printing it and completing it with a pencil and then mailing it in.
Attention and beware: If you are not a permanent resident of the US, holding at least a temporary green card, or a resident of one of the freely associated states, or if you are not one of the exemptions, such as the category “refugee” or “victim of human trafficking” or are not a US citizen then you are ineligible for federal financial aid.
You have to note your marital status, and alert the financial aid office at your college if said status changes after you have completed and turned in your financial aid form. Also you must record your net worth. Net worth means the current value of your estate and investments, minus your debt. If you have zero net worth, you must enter that. The investments that you must record on this form in the questions of net worth do not include the home you live in, or life insurance, or retirement or checking accounts, or UGMA or UTMA for which you are the custodian but not the owner.
If you are a veteran check YES in the appropriate box. If you are a National Guard or Reserve enlistee who is in training (on active duty) check NO.
Financial aid is usually a very long commitment. Consider when you enter college or grad school, what you intend to do to pay off both principal and interest on the loan. Running away to Paris or Rome to become a movie director in the Film Noir style may mean hitting the jackpot and ridding yourself of the FA encumbrance forever, or it may mean sinking into a bog of debt which your friends, who will be compelled to help you, will never forgive you.
Do not, therefore, take on federal financial aid lightly. It is like a love affair; if done with a good head on your shoulders and with proper direction it can be very rewarding and lead to a successful life. However, if not done sensibly, it can lead to trouble and heartache.
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