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How to Understand FAFSA with RaiseMe 

From key dates and common vocabulary, to understanding college requirements, this guide explores the foundation to understanding the FAFSA with RaiseMe.

RaiseMe is committed to helping you get to college. A core part of this commitment is celebrating you and the amazing work you’ve put in throughout high school or community college, like moving your Bs to As, conquering the PSAT, supporting your family, volunteering, and more. Another key aspect is helping you understand the true cost of college. We know paying for college can be a big worry, but hope that with the right information, the process can be less burdensome!  

With Financial Literacy Month underway, it’s the perfect time to talk about the FAFSA. The five letter acronym is constantly at the crux of tuition conversations, yet it can be incredibly confounding. This article will help remove the confusion and turn the FAFSA into your PIC in your paying for college journey.

Vocabulary to Know About FAFSA

FAFSA = The Free Application for Federal Student Aid  

It is a staple to the college application process — helping students unlock access to various forms of financial aid to help pay for college. You can see it as your gateway to qualifying for need-based aid, federal student loans and even for merit-based aid from many individual colleges. 

Dependency Status

When seeking financial aid, you’ll be asked if you are a “dependent student” or an “independent student” as a way to determine the information, and whose information, you’ll need to provide. This is grounded in the recognition that paying for college is the responsibility of a student, and his or her family. According to the Office of the U.S. Department of Education, 

  • “An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.” Independent students will report their (and if applicable, their spouse’s) information. 
  • A dependent student does not meet the criteria outlined above. Instead “a dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, so the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength.” A dependent student will report their own and their parents’ information. 

Key Dates on the FAFSA

  • The 2020-2021 FAFSA opened on October 1st of this past fall, 2019. 
  •  The 2020-2021 FAFSA will close on June 30, 2021. This means you have just over one more month to complete it. 
  • The due dates may vary by college and state, so be sure to check out the specifics for the colleges on your list. 

RaiseMe Insight: One of the trickiest parts about paying for college is keeping track of all the various deadlines. But we have a solution for you. Check out this article on the most critical application deadlines for applying to college

How to Fill it Out

The steps to fill out the FAFSA vary on dependency and citizenship status. Check out our article on your FAFSA checklist to determine the right documents you’ll need to gather to begin filling it out. Once you’ve compiled the necessary information, you can start filling it out here

How long will it take me to complete?

The time will vary by family, but on average it should not take you more than an hour. Preparing the right documents ahead of time will make your process as efficient as possible. 

Do the colleges I follow on RaiseMe require FAFSA?

A common question we receive regarding the FAFSA is this: do I need to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible to earn micro-scholarships on RaiseMe? As we outline in this popular help desk article, the answer is, it depends on where you apply: “some schools on RaiseMe require FAFSA, and when they do, you can assume that students will also need to qualify for need-based financial aid in order to be guaranteed the amount earned on RaiseMe. However, many schools do not require FAFSA for RaiseMe dollars to be guaranteed.” 

You can easily identify if the FAFSA is required by the schools you are applying to by checking the eligibility requirements on the college’s page on RaiseMe. 

Is there a micro-scholarship on FAFSA?

Many colleges on RaiseMe award for students simply filling out the FAFSA, regardless of their qualifying decision from the school. Check out the earning opportunity in the College Readiness section of your portfolio

Samantha writes on topics facing students and parents for RaiseMe. She hopes her pieces can help equip students with the information they need to get to their best fit college. Outside of RaiseMe, you can find Samantha reading, writing more, and getting outside to explore all that the Bay Area has to offer.

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