Don’t let worries about your finances or the cost of education discourage you from pursuing a new career, and don’t assume you can’t afford to go to College. If you dream of a better future and that future requires that you further your education, ASPIRA City College can help you make that dream your reality.
We know that planning the financial side of going to college can be a bit difficult, especially for first-time college students and their families. In many cases, it’s mostly because it’s unfamiliar ground. To help prepare you, ASPIRA City College is explaining basic financial aid terms, starting with the FAFSA.
What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For starters, a FAFSA is not financial aid – it’s the form you need to complete to apply for financial assistance. Applying is free, and you must submit the FAFSA every year that you wish to apply for student aid. It takes most people under an hour to complete the FAFSA, including the time needed to gather documents required to apply.
The best option is to complete the web-based version of the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, known as FAFSA on the Web. It includes step-by-step instructions for how to complete it, as well as pre-application worksheets. If you don’t already have one, before you start your FAFSA, you need to obtain an FSA ID.
If you have technical questions about using FAFSA on the Web, call 1-800-4-FED-AID or the ASPIRA City College Financial Aid Department at 215-455-2300.
What is an FSA ID?
The FSA ID is the username and password that you use to sign the FAFSA electronically. If you are a dependent student, then you and your parents each need to get separate FSA IDs. Do not share your FSA ID with anybody. To file the FAFSA, you must first get an FSA ID from fsaid.ed.gov. Remember, ASPIRA City College Financial Aid Counselors are available to walk you through each step of the process.
What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used to transfer information from your or your parents’ federal income tax returns into the FAFSA. Not only does this simplify the FAFSA by answering about a quarter of the questions, but it reduces the likelihood that your FAFSA gets selected for verification. Data transferred from the IRS is not subject to verification.
What is a SAR?
The Student Aid Report (SAR) is a paper or electronic document that provides necessary information about your eligibility for federal student aid. It also lists your answers to the questions on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In essence, the SAR summarizes the information you provided when you completed the FAFSA. It includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which colleges use to determine your financial aid package.
What is an EFC?
An EFC number is the “expected family contribution” or the amount a family must pay for their student’s college education. In short, the EFC affects how much federal grant money you will be given for college expenses. Your EFC number factors the following:
- Family size, including the number of family members currently enrolled in College
- Parental income and assets
- Student income and assets
In general, a lower EFC number results in a higher award from the government. EFC numbers are calculated by ASPIRA City College using the same scale as the government.
What is dependent student status?
Undergraduate students who are under age 24 as of December 31 of the award year are dependent for federal student aid purposes. However, a student would be exempt if they meet the following criteria:
- They are married.
- They have dependents other than a spouse.
- They are an orphan.
- They are a veteran or active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- They satisfy other limited criteria.
What is an independent student?
Often, young adult students assume themselves to be independent students because they live separately from their parents and are not supported at all or fully by their parents. However, the Federal Government sets strict guidelines that define an independent student. To meet the federal definition of independent student status as the student, you must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:
- You are married.
- You are working on a degree beyond a bachelor’s, such as a master’s or doctorate.
- You have legal dependents other than a spouse, specifically a child or children, who receive more than half of their financial support from you.
- You are 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year.
- You are an orphan or ward of the court or were a ward of the court until age 18.
- You are a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Should I use a financial aid search company?
In a word, no! Almost 88 percent of all student aid comes directly from the federal and state governments or the school itself. You should be very wary of any financial aid search company that charges a fee to match you with sources of financial aid. Also, avoid responding to requests for personal information (bank account, credit card, or social security numbers), as well as anyone who pressures you to make decisions quickly or suggest that the company or person influences with scholarship sponsors.