5 Ways the Federal Student Aid Website Can Help You Before, During, and After College

federal student aid

As part of the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid (FSA) is the biggest provider of financial aid in the country. It grants more than $120 billion in financial assistance to over 13 million students every year.

If you’re a student or parent of a student, you’re bound to spend some time on the Federal Student Aid website. It has a wealth of resources on preparing and paying for college.

Federal Student Aid is a one-stop shop for learning about financial aid. Read on for all the resources StudentAid.ed.gov has to offer — and how you can make the most of this comprehensive site.

Who should use the Federal Student Aid website?

Any prospective, current, or former students — as well as their parents — will benefit from a visit to the Federal Student Aid website.

If you’re not yet in college, you’ll find tips on how to research colleges and careers. Plus, you’ll get information on how to fill out the FAFSA. You won’t fill out the application on this site, but you can learn all about it.

If you’re a current student or have already graduated, you can also learn about repaying federal student loans. FSA goes over your options for loan repayment, forgiveness, and consolidation. It also provides information about deferment, forbearance, and default.

You won’t necessarily find advice customized to your specific situation, but you’ll get an overview of financial aid and how it works, along with a glossary of terms you need to know.

5 things you can learn on the Federal Student Aid website

Federal Student Aid website

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

Although it’s tough to boil down all the resources the FSA website offers, here are five of the most useful ones for students and their families.

1. How to prepare for college

Preparing for college

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

If you’re a prospective student, check out the first tab on the FSA website. It goes over how to choose a college, take required tests, and apply. Each page connects you with other important websites, including the College Navigator tool and College Board, where you can sign up for the SAT.

Not sure how to start the college prep process? Check out the FSA’s checklists for academic and financial preparation. These checklists help you stay on track all the way from elementary school up until 12th grade. There’s even one specifically for adult students.

Beyond these college checklists, you’ll also find resources on career exploration. The FSA website encourages students to consider the return on investment on their degree. With its career search tool, you can learn about professions you’re interested in, plus you’ll get a sense of average post-college salaries.

Finally, you can read budgeting tips as you get ready for college. This section talks about setting short-, medium-, and long-term financial goals. While it might not be your ultimate go-to for personal finance advice, its strategies are definitely worth checking out.

2. Information about the types of financial aid

Types of financial aid

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

Federal Student Aid manages billions of dollars in financial aid. This aid includes grants, need-based and non-need based loans, and work-study. On the FSA website, you can learn all about the different types of financial aid.

Among its various grants, for instance, the FSA provides Pell Grants, TEACH Grants, and grants for military families. It also disburses subsidized and unsubsidized student loans and PLUS loans.

You won’t actually apply for loans on the FSA website, but you can learn how they work, along with their interest rates and fees. By reading over this information, you’ll be better prepared to understand your financial aid package.

You can also research the federal work-study program. Work-study offers part-time, on-campus jobs to qualifying students. This section of the site goes over how the work-study program works, how much you can earn, and what jobs you can expect to find.

Once you’ve learned about the different types of aid, go on to read about the tax advantages of federal student loans. These include the American Opportunity Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the student loan tax deduction.

Finally, head to the last tab for warnings on avoiding student loan scams. This section discusses how to spot fraud and protect yourself against identity theft. Plus, it shows you all the free resources you never have to pay for.

By reviewing this section of StudentAid.ed.gov, you’ll be well-versed in the different types of student aid. Plus, you’ll have a strategic sense of how to get tax benefits on your financial aid and avoid predatory lenders.

3. How to qualify for financial aid

Qualify for student loans

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

Once you’ve learned about the different types of financial aid, your next question might be about whether you’re eligible. This next tab discusses who qualifies for federal financial assistance.

It goes over basic eligibility requirements, such as demonstrating financial need and being a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. You must also maintain satisfactory academic progress to retain your aid year after year.

To ensure you qualify, read over the full list of criteria. If you’re eligible, move on to the next stage: submitting the FAFSA.

4. Tips on the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

Federal Student Aid is a treasure chest of financial aid, but first, you need the key. That key is the FAFSA. To get financial aid, all students must first fill out the FAFSA.

This section of the Federal Student Aid website discusses the FAFSA in detail. You’ll learn how to fill out the FAFSA and when to submit it. It will also guide you through creating an FSA ID and reporting financial information.

When you’re ready to fill out the application, head to FAFSA.gov. You might also check out the FAFSA4Caster tool. This tool helps you predict how much aid you might qualify for.

5. How to repay your loans

Repaying federal student loans

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

Last but certainly not least, the final tab on the Federal Student Aid website discusses how to repay your student loans. First, it goes over all the different repayment plans, from the standard plan to Income-Based Repayment.

It also discusses how you can postpone student loan payments through forbearance and deferment. These can be useful options if you run into financial hardship or pause your income to go to graduate school. In addition, you’ll learn about loan consolidation, which can help if you’ve gone into default or want to simplify your payments.

Anyone considering a public service career should check out the FSA’s guides on Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. You can also read all about student loan discharge in the case of a closed school or another qualifying event.

Finally, you’ll learn about avoiding default and getting out of collections. The site goes over what happens if you don’t pay your student loans. Plus, you’ll learn how to rehabilitate a loan if you’ve gone into default.

The site offers an overview of the different ways you can repay your student loans. You won’t get advice customized to your specific situation, nor will you learn any special strategies. But you will get a thorough explanation about the essentials of student loan repayment.

Other helpful Federal Student Aid sites

The Federal Student Aid website will teach you about student loan repayment and how to fill out the FAFSA. To actually create an account and submit applications, you’ll head away from the main FSA website to other sites under the FSA umbrella.

StudentLoans.gov, for instance, is where you’ll go to consolidate your student loans. You’ll also sign into your account to complete entrance and exit counseling. Parents can apply for Parent PLUS loans through this site.

As previously mentioned, you will fill out and submit the FAFSA through FAFSA.gov. You’ll create an FSA ID, as well as collect important financial information. After submitting the FAFSA, you’ll be one step closer to federal financial aid.

The FSA website is an excellent resource for learning the ABCs of financial aid. But you’ll head to its companion websites for interactive and customizable tools, including this student loan repayment estimator.

Contact information for Federal Student Aid

If you have questions about federal student aid, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center via phone, email, or live chat.

The center’s phone number is 1-800-433-3243. Note that the center can only help you resolve an issue with an FSA ID if you’re the owner of that ID.

You can also email Federal Student Aid via this online form or speak with an agent through web chat. Before reaching out, you might also sift through the student aid FAQs page for an answer to your question.

The FSA website is an essential resource

Federal Student Aid is responsible for processing the FAFSA and disbursing federal student aid funds every year. Its website informs students and their families about the financial aid process.

The FSA website is an invaluable resource for staying informed about your financial assistance options. It’s never too early to come up with a plan for financing your education, so start today.

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