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FAFSA: What you need to know about applying for financial aid

(Photo courtesy collegeavestudentloans.com) FAFSA stands for free application for federal student aid.

Nicole J Estrada Rosario
Connector Staff

The time to file for FAFSA has arrived, with applications being accepted as early as Oct. 1. Financial aid comes on a first-come, first-served basis meaning that the earlier students apply, the better their chances are at getting more money awarded to them, as long as they qualify for it.

 

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is an application for students to receive financial aid for their college tuition.

 

Financial aid can be received in three different forms: institutional aid, federal aid and state aid. Institutional aid often refers to grants and scholarships that come from a university. They are also known as need-based grants. Federal aid and state aid usually refer to loans. Other than this, work-study-eligible students can also work on campus to earn money towards their tuition.

 

To find out if a student is eligible for any aid, they must file a FAFSA application first. Not only is it free to apply, but all students who file a FAFSA will be eligible for a federally insured direct loan with a fixed interest rate, something that is often hard to find.

 

Tara Antifonario, the senior assistant director of the UMass Lowell Federal Programs and Literacy in the Financial Aid Office, said it is important to file for FAFSA on time. “It’s best to file as soon as possible after that date [Oct. 1].”

 

There are two deadlines that students should be aware of. The first is March 1, the priority deadline for UMass Lowell, and the second is May 1, the Massachusetts FAFSA deadline for state aid. The priority deadline allows students to be considered for institutional aid.

 

Even so, students should wait not until the deadline to file their FAFSA. In some cases, FAFSA requires the student to provide additional documentation to process their application. This can result in financial aid packages taking longer to arrive.

 

The FAFSA application requests tax information from both students and parents from two tax years prior. For example, during the 2021-2022 year, FAFSA requested the tax information from the 2019 year. For this year, FAFSA is requesting tax information from the year 2020.

 

Antifonario shared some tips to make filing FAFSA easier, Have a printed copy of the tax information for the required year, When filing, both students and parents need an FSA ID. It is best to complete this step before sitting down to file. “If that information is lost, it can be quite a process to get things back in working order,” Antifonario said.  Have your family’s income and assets paperwork ready to review.

 

“If you’re stuck, ask for help.”

 

Antifonario shared some tips to make filing FAFSA easier. She says that students should have on hand a printed copy of the tax information for the required year.

 

Additionally, when filing, both students and parents need an FSA ID. It is best to complete this step before sitting down to complete the application. “If that information is lost, it can be quite a process to get things back in working order,” Antifonario said. She also says for students to have their family’s income and assets paperwork ready to review.

 

Above all, Antifonario says, “If you’re stuck, ask for help.” If a student needs support or someone to walk them through the FAFSA application process, the Solution Center at UCrossing is a great resource.

 

It is important to remember that a FAFSA application must be filed yearly. Students who file the year before still need to file the next year’s application if they want to receive aid for the following academic period.

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