The 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better know as the FAFSA, became available today.
If you’re in college now or starting college next year, filling out this form is the only way to get federal student aid. It’s also a great way to get additional money from your state and school.
More than $2.7 billion in federal aid money went unclaimed last year. Complete the FAFSA now to grab your piece of the pie.
What to know about the 2018-19 FAFSA changes
The FAFSA is used by the government and colleges to determine your eligibility for financial aid. (If you’d like to learn more about the basics, check out our ultimate FAFSA FAQ.)
The 2018-19 FAFSA, which came out today, is for anyone who will be in college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
If you’ve filled out the FAFSA before, you might notice a few changes to the process.
It’s available earlier
You used to have to wait until January to fill out the FAFSA, but the form is now available on October 1, which means you have more time to compare aid packages and negotiate with financial aid offices.
It also means you need to get yourself into gear and apply. Keep reading to see why you shouldn’t wait.
You’ll use last year’s income
In previous years, you had to estimate your income. For this year’s FAFSA, you’ll use data from your 2016 tax return.
If your 2017 income is significantly different, the Department of Education suggested you should contact the schools you’re applying to and explain what changed.
You can’t see numbers submitted through the IRS tool
For the past several years, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool has allowed you to automatically import your income directly into the FAFSA.
Although you still can use the tool, security concerns mean you’ll no longer be able to see or edit the numbers you submit. Instead, you’ll see a note that says “transferred from the IRS” in applicable fields.
If you did your taxes correctly, it shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’d like to double-check which numbers were on your tax return, you can use this IRS tool to get a transcript.
3 steps for filling out your FAFSA
The FAFSA is the only way to get federal financial aid.
Even if you think your family’s income is too high, you should fill out the FAFSA. You might qualify for a merit grant or scholarship, and you’ll need it to obtain federal student loans.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID
The student and parent each will need to create an FSA ID. After you create an ID, it might be three days before you can use it, so don’t wait.
2. Collect your documents
Then it’s time to gather everything you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA: W2s, bank statements, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and 2016 tax returns.
3. Fill out the FAFSA
When you fill out the FAFSA, don’t panic if you aren’t sure which schools you’re applying to. Include up to 10 schools you’re considering; you can add or remove them later.
Why you should complete your FAFSA now
The technical deadline for filling out the 2018-19 FAFSA is June 2019, but you should fill out your FAFSA as soon as you can.
That’s because, although it won’t affect your federal grants, it likely will affect how much you receive from your state and college. If you fill out your form early, more money will be available — and you’ll have a better chance of snagging it.
Some states even award aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Check your state’s FAFSA deadlines here. If you see “as soon as possible after October 1, 2017,” you need to hurry.
Then check the website of each college you’re applying to. If it lists a “priority deadline,” the Department of Education explained, you’ll need to “get your FAFSA form in by that date to be considered for the most money.”
Not convinced yet? Read this statement from financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, as told to Student Loan Hero: “Students who file the FAFSA within the first three months (October, November, and December) tend to receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later.”
Unlike student loans, grants don’t need to be paid back. So to secure your future, get your FAFSA in ASAP.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.06% – 13.06%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.62% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.93% – 9.81%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|