Filling out a FAFSA is the first step in getting financial aid for college. In longhand, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the official document used to determine your eligibility for a host of grants and loans. Whether you’re a student or a parent, it’s important to go in with eyes wide open and to consult only trustworthy resources in your research. Use the trusted sites in this guide to help you navigate the FAFSA and the world of federal student aid.
It’s best to start with the basics. In this section, you’ll find the official site to access your FAFSA along with some great resources to help you get started. From the official FAFSA help page to the government’s helpful resource pages, it’s a good idea to explore these sites before you submit your aid application.
FAFSA.gov — Always visit the official FAFSA site to fill out your aid applications. Sign up, get a PIN number, and get started. You can save the application anytime and come back to finish it later using your PIN to access your account.
College Prep and Student Aid Resource Page — This page, from the Department of Education, has videos, images, PDF documents, and other free media to help you get ready for college and figure out how to pay for it. You’ll find college comparisons, printable workbooks, and college prep checklists.
Financial Aid Toolkit — Another helpful government page, this “toolkit” includes documents, slideshow presentations, and other resources to help you figure out everything from what kind of aid you’ll qualify for to how awards are calculated.
FAFSA Help Page — This is a great page for students and parents with helpful links, tips for navigating the FAFSA site, and a healthy collection of FAQs covering everything from password help to determining eligibility.
Expert Tips and Sound Advice
Filling out your FAFSA can get complicated if you’ve never done it before. Just like filling out a tax form, it’s important to know what you’re doing and to be careful about entering the wrong information. Learn about mistakes that can affect your eligibility and award amount, and get valuable insights from experts who understand the finer points of the process.
Answers to FAFSA Questions — In this New York Times blog post, a financial expert answers important questions and offers some guidance for students seeking financial aid and filling out their FAFSA.
Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Financial Aid — This Forbes article outlines the importance of filling out a FAFSA, and offers some tips for parents and students to help start them off on the right foot.
10 FAFSA Mistakes That Affect Financial Aid — Read this article before you file your FAFSA. One simple mistake can prevent your application from being processed properly and affect your eligibility for aid. Learn what to avoid and why.
Simple Tuition Financial Aid Page — This site is a one-stop source for all kinds of incredibly valuable information about how financial aid works. This is a good place to visit — and bookmark — before you start filling out your FAFSA.
College Goal Sunday — This program offers free help with college planning and financial aid. Click your state on the map and get information about local events, such as FAFSA workshops.
Even More Help
In this section, you’ll find even more excellent resources to help you find and get the financial aid you need for college. Get answers to more of your FAFSA questions, learn how to renew your aid application, and find out how to steer clear of scams. There’s also a great blog that you’ll want to keep bookmarked throughout your college experience to stay updated on relevant financial aid news.
Financial Aid FAQs — Get answers to all kinds of questions about financial aid and the FAFSA. Find out everything from whether it’s technically legal for a 17-year-old to enter a loan contract to figuring out what all those acronyms on the FAFSA stand for.
FAFSA Renewal Tips — Students must apply for financial aid each year that they attend school. Filing a Renewal FAFSA will save time and frustration. Use these tips to ensure that your don’t let your financial aid dry up.
How to Avoid a Student Loan Scam — This ABC News article takes a comprehensive look at some of the scams and predatory tactics that many students have fallen prey to. Find out what the red flags are, so you can avoid becoming one of them.
Edvisors Student Aid Blog — Pay this site a visit for a wealth of information about student aid. Keep up with the latest aid-related tax news, get solid advice from experts and former students, and be the first to find out about government policy changes that can affect your aid.
Other Ways to Pay
Besides federal aid, there are other ways to help pay for college. You may be eligible to receive additional aid from your state. You could be awarded grants or scholarships. There are also nontraditional ways to get ahead, like cashing in work experience credits or taking advanced placement classes in high school. In this section, you can explore additional resources to help you pay for school and minimize the amount of money you need to borrow.
College-Level Examination Program — Sometimes, you can save money on school by “testing out” of certain credit requirements. Many schools will accept equivalency exams in place of certain classes. Use this site to find out if yours does.
ACE Credit — Many people are unaware that experience and training completed in the workplace can sometimes count toward higher education credits. The American Council on Education (ACE) provides this page with all kinds of great information about transferring work experience into college credit.
State-by-State Aid Programs — Use this interactive map to find information about financial aid availability in each state.
Scholarship Search — Enter some information about yourself and get matched up with scholarships that you may qualify for. Click on each one to find out more and to apply.