The 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid opened today, and U.S. News & World Report is here to help with an in-depth guide on what to know about the $120 billion in aid shelled out annually to college students by the Department of Education. U.S. News’ Paying for College Reporter Farran Powell offers the following tips about the FAFSA, a useful way to pay for school.
- Complete the FAFSA: One recent study found that nearly 40 percent of high school graduates didn’t complete the FAFSA, which means some families gave up the chance to be eligible for federal grants that don’t have to be repaid. Even if a family doesn’t qualify for Pell Grants, which assist students from low-income households, they might be eligible for other types of aid, like federal student loans.
- Submit the FAFSA early: Even though the federal deadline isn’t until June 30, students and their families should complete the form early to ensure they are eligible to receive aid. Some states and colleges offer financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, and waiting to fill out the form might mean leaving money on the table.
- Know that many states and colleges use the FAFSA: Although the FAFSA is for federal financial aid, many states and colleges also use the form to disburse aid awards.
- Understand that many families qualify for aid: In addition to household income, factors that determine how much aid a student receives include the number of people in a household, child support costs, college savings and other financial assets – to name a few. Even families with higher incomes typically qualify for some type of aid, like work-study or federal loans, which usually carry lower interest rates compared with private loans.
“Navigating the FAFSA process can seem complex for many families, since the form has more than 100 questions. Starting this year, the FAFSA can be completed using a mobile app,” Powell said. “This initiative is intended to increase completion rates and help low-income families who may not have access to a personal computer.”
Below are more step-by-step guides that students and their families can use when researching how to pay for college:
- An Ultimate Guide to Understanding College Financial Aid
- How to Find and Secure Scholarships for College
- What You Need to Know About College Tuition Costs
These guides serve U.S. News’ broader mission of providing trusted information and rankings to help students navigate their higher education options. These include expert advice and tips on the financial aid process, college affordability, student loans and more. U.S. News also publishes annual rankings of the Best High Schools, Best Colleges, Best Global Universities, Best Graduate Schools and Best Online Programs.