Top Questions for Federal Financial Aid

March 5, 2012

There can be a lot of confusion during the financial aid process. For many, that process starts with the admission process to a college. One of the first things that you are required to do is file online through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. However, there are many more questions concerning eligibility, the application process, receiving the aid and what kinds of federal aid grants are offered through the process. In addition, there are several terms that can trip people up during the process, including EFC or expected family contribution. This guide will help you figure out some solution to these questions and get a better understanding of the financial aid application process.

1. Are You Eligible for Federal Student Aid?

For one, you have to be a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen with a social security number. You must also have a high school diploma or GED, complete homeschooling or pass an approved "ability to benefit" test. You need to enroll in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate. You also be making the right progress in your program and remain academically successful, meaning that you can't be on probation or suspension. In addition, if you are a male, you need to be registered with the Selective Service. If you have been convicted for the possession or sale of drugs for an offense that occurred while you were in school, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine further if you are still eligible. You also must not owe a refund on a federal grant and you have financial need.

2. How Do I Apply for Aid?

There are two ways that you can apply for federal aid. You have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid either way, by paper or online. If you do choose to complete a paper FAFSA, it will take 7 t o10 days to process. If you file online, it can take as little as 3 days to get processed. You can find more help for filling out the FAFSA by going here.

3. How Do Students Receive Financial Aid?

Your college awards a financial aid package to help meet the student's financial need, which is the difference between the college's cost of attendance and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If you believe that you have unusual circumstances that should be taken into account, like unusual medical or dental expenses. There may also be a significant change in come from one year to the next, so you should contact the financial aid office at your college for assistance. The college will pay students, not the government. There are several ways that you receive financial aid, either through direct deposit, college account or by mail. The payments are usually each semester within the first two weeks of the semester.

4. When Do I Get the Financial Aid Package?

This date will range depending on your college. For many, you receive the financial aid package about one month after your FAFSA has been processed through a letter from your college or on the college's website. You may be notified by email through your college as well. The financial aid package will include funds from FAFSA, such as the Pell Grant, but you may also receive Federal Stafford Loans or Federal PLUS Loans. There may also be aid from federal work-study and other grant programs included with the package. You should be able to accept, reduce or reject financial aid as you wish on your package.

5. How Much Financial Aid Can I Receive?

Your eligibility is different from anyone else, and your cost of tuition is also different. The amount of your financial aid will be based mostly on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount that is expected from your own income and your parent's income that can go to school. Your parent's assets, your own assets, including savings accounts, will be considered in this process. Your enrollment status, year in college and cost of attendance will also determine the amount of your financial aid.

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