(BPT) - ‘Tis the season when families across the country start discussing how they plan to finance their children’s college education for the next academic school year.
For parents and college and graduate students (both prospective and current), the idea of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) might seem daunting. But don’t fret: filling out the application — which is paramount if you want to qualify for any kind of financial aid — is easier and faster than ever. Plus, the sooner you have this taken care of, the better suited you’ll be if you decide that you need to supplement your federal assistance with a private loan — in this case, SoFi has your back, too.
Need a FAFSA refresher? We got you covered!
Let’s start with the basics — the FAFSA application must be submitted every year a student hopes to receive any form of financial aid, including federal student loans, grants and Work-Study jobs. Many states, schools and scholarship programs also require FAFSA information for their award decisions. One of the common misconceptions out there is, “I don’t qualify because my family earns too much.” Don’t let this deter you from considering your financing options — apply regardless of how much your family earns, as there is no income cut-off for federal student aid.
The online application is available on the Office of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) website. In the past couple years, the FAFSA has changed to accept the prior-prior year’s taxes, so no need to wait until your 2022 taxes are complete; you can use your 2021 taxes to complete the FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year.
Filling out the FAFSA form doesn’t take long, typically less than an hour, and you’re able to use an IRS data tool that allows you to prefill much of your information. The application asks questions about the income and finances of the student (and spouse if married) and the student’s parents, plus questions about the student’s education plans.
For the upcoming academic year, you can submit the form now. Generally, the federal deadline is June 30 for the current application cycle. However, states and schools may have earlier deadlines for awarding state-specific grants. To find out the deadline for your state, check the official FAFSA website and reach out to your financial aid office for school-specific deadlines.
Also, you should keep in mind that funding is limited and is often first come, first served. So be sure to submit your application as soon as possible!
And if you’re curious about how FAFSA applications are doing in your state, be sure to check out this #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker, an interactive dashboard that tracks and ranks states’ progress toward 100% of their high school seniors completing the FAFSA application.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Is this year’s application any easier or faster?” Good question. The simple answer is yes: there is no glitchy app to download or deal with!
This fall, the Department of Education retired the myStudent Aid app. Instead, all you have to do is go to the Federal Student Aid site — and the smart technology helps you skip the questions that don’t apply to you.
Additionally, the 2023-24 form does not ask about Selective Service registration status or drug convictions.
Come next year, when you receive your financial aid letters, you may be looking for an additional source of funding, aka private student loans. These loans, typically from banks, credit unions and online lenders, do not require a FAFSA application and are often used as a supplement to federal aid.
SoFi’s private student loans are available for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as parents. In just a few minutes, you can apply online for student loans and be well on your way to financing your education.
It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same protections as federal student loans, like income-driven repayment plans or deferment options. For this reason, private student loans are generally considered only after other sources of funding, typically from the government, have been considered.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine which loan option will work best for you, so always thoroughly review your options.
Want a deeper dive into FAFSA? SoFi’s head financial planner Brian Walsh, CFP®, breaks down the process for you in a video available here.
Filling out the FAFSA is a great first step to pay for your dream school. This is one of the best ways of getting scholarships and grants you won’t have to pay back or government-backed loans to help you pay for college-related costs. By learning how to properly fill out the FAFSA (and then actually doing so!), you can increase your odds of getting a bigger financial aid package.
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. We encourage you to evaluate all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
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