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4 Little-Known Facts About FAFSA

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." - Ronald Dahl

We all know the basics about FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. We know that we have to apply for it by a certain time after January so we can receive our award letter for the next semester. We know that it gives us money; we know that its long; we know that we get confused and tired just looking at it. Hell, like I said, we know a lot. However, there are many things that we do not know about that FAFSA that could prove to be beneficial—if we actually knew them. No worries, however, allow me to let you in on a little secret about FAFSA—or 4 secrets, rather—and they are:

The government offers help.

Did you know that the United States Department of Education (ED) offers help in filling out the FAFSA? I wish I would have known that about five years ago—it would have been pretty helpful. However, that’s water under the bridge. The fact of the matter is that the ED offers help to those who contact them via email or phone call; the link to the Federal Student Aid Information Center’s page is here. The issues that the Center assist with are the following: submission, correction, signature, or FSA ID (username and password).

First Come, First Serve

Financial aid functions based on three calendars, which are: the fiscal year calendar (October 1 – September 30), the academic year calendar (July 1 – June 30), and the tax year calendar (January 1-December 31). If you are applying for financial aid, let’s say, for the 2018-2019 school year, then you have from October 1, 2017 (beginning of the fiscal year) until June 30, 2019 (end of the academic year) to complete your FAFSA. Many students do not know that, depending on what state they live in, the earlier you complete and submit your FAFSA, the more money you can receive. Remember: when you complete the FAFSA, you are qualifying for financial assistance from the federal government, the state government, and the university. Because these institutions have limited funds, financial assistance is offered on a “First Come, First Serve” basis, so it is best to do so. To find out more about which states participate in this program, click here.

It can fund international education.

If you have ever wanted to study abroad outside of the country, but you didn’t know how you were going to get the money. Well, have no fear the U. S government is here—with financial aid. The United States has a partnership with numerous international universities (listed here) that will accept federal student aid from the United States. You can use the student aid to fund an entire degree program or just a semester. To read more about this, click here.

You can file early.

I’m almost certain that many of us hate tax season. It brings the stress of having to find someone to do your taxes, or you having to do them yourself, and having to endure pocket-ache until your tax refund comes. Even more stressing was the fact that, before 2015, you had to wait for your taxes to be completed before you could even attempt to fill out the FAFSA. Often time, this delayed the process of you receiving your financial aid causing you to receive less money on your award letter. However, thanks to a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Education, you don’t have to worry about waiting on your current year’s taxes to be finished before you can apply for FAFSA. Why? Because you can now use your tax information from the previous tax year and have it apply as your tax information on the FAFSA for the upcoming academic year. In other words, if you filed your taxes in 2016—and you are currently in the school year of 2017-2018—then you can use your 2016 tax information to apply for financial aid for the school year of 2018-2019, if you plan on attending college for that school year. Now that's what I call efficiency!

I hope that these little known secrets prove helpful when filling out your FAFSA in the future. Good luck in your educational pursuits.

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