What is FASFA?If you’ve applied to college before or are in the process of applying now, you’ve likely seen the acronym “FAFSA,” which stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” Like the name says, this application process is completely free for students — and could alleviate your worries about paying for school.

According to a U.S. Department of Education NCES Data Point report, students commonly miss out on financial aid opportunities because they mistakenly believe they either aren’t eligible, or they don’t need aid to pay for school.

Grantham University urges students to take time to fill out the FAFSA. In today’s blog post, we will explain how federal aid may help you, and we’ll review some of the common mistakes students make when applying. First, let’s look at the application process and some misconceptions about this benefit.

FAFSA Facts You Need to Know

First and foremost, this process is completely free for students, no matter the level of funds for which you may qualify. This is important, as there are many websites posing as the site you really want, in an effort to collect fees you do not need to pay. Again, any materials you’ll need to submit you can do so yourself at no cost on the official FAFSA site.

Another important FAFSA fact — financial aid isn’t limited to just federal loans. There are often scholarships and grants, and even state-level offerings, for which many students are eligible (and unlike federal loans, may not require you to pay back the funds you receive). Even if you’re prepared to cover your tuition and other college costs out of pocket, some of these options through FAFSA can lighten your financial burden.

If you are considering private loans (through a bank, credit union or other lender) instead of federal student loans, you should definitely compare interest rates. Typically, rates through FAFSA are much lower, and you could save thousands of dollars when paying back your loans after graduating.

Once you complete your FAFSA application online, you and your school will receive details about your loan eligibility. Your Student Aid Report outlines your loan, scholarship and grant options, and any costs you (or your family, if you are a dependent) must contribute out of pocket. The government looks at the past year’s data to determine this amount. But, since your personal life and financial status can change in an instant, so can the calculated amount. Grantham’s financial aid specialists can help you update this information.

Common Misconceptions about FAFSA

When applying for college and financial aid, it can be easy to make assumptions when you are busy juggling a career, children, military obligations or other life commitments … and you just want to quickly get through the application process. Of course, in rushing you may miss opportunities for aid or make costly mistakes. Take time to consider all options.

Don’t assume you’re too old for financial aid. Many adult learners go back to school to build on their current skills or prepare for new careers. Federal aid is available to learners of all ages who qualify. Filling out the FAFSA won’t ensure you anything, but it might end up being a surprisingly big benefit. You won’t know until you take that step.

Also, filling out the FAFSA is not a “one and done” situation, and you’ll need to complete the form each year you plan to secure funds. It will be easier after the first time, though, since you should be familiar with the process and you’ll have a PIN you can re-use. But remember, colleges can sometimes raise tuition from year to year, and this could affect your plans and budgeting.

Tips for Maximizing Your FAFSA Opportunities

When it comes to the FAFSA, procrastination is your enemy. Because financial aid is limited, you should apply in a timely manner. Those who apply first have the best chance of receiving the aid they need, while those who overlook details or delay matters may find themselves at the back of the line.

Make sure you complete every question and review your FAFSA for typos, inaccuracies or incomplete information. You should keep the PIN you’ll receive (associated with your application) handy, as you’ll need to reference it from time to time while in school. It’s also a good idea to keep all your financial aid documents in one place on your computer, as well as print back-up hard copies.

Don’t Let Cost Keep You from Your Dreams

If you’re hesitant about going back to school because of cost, it’s time to talk to Grantham University. We strive to make our high-quality education affordable. In fact, our tuition rate is lower than 95 percent of other private and for-profit institutions. Plus, we have a number of additional ways to help keep costs down for our students, such as:

You can contact Grantham through the form to the right on this page, or jump in and start learning about the admissions process. Either way, we’re here to help you discover our 100 percent online programs and financial options that best meet your needs. Courses start monthly, so we’re ready when you are!