FAFSA facts, veteran resources, top tips and more
Editor’s note: Read one ASU student’s experience with financial aid — and what he learned — here.
With the new year comes a fresh start at finances. For students, that includes the opening of the 2016-2017 application for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA.
More than 80 percent of ASU students receive some form of financial assistance every year. It can be a confusing world to navigate, but our financial aid guide can help.
Top 3 financial aid questions
How do I apply for financial aid?
Students, and parents if applicable, must first apply for a Federal Student Aid ID and can then submit a FAFSA. Both can be done at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. When filling out the FAFSA, include ASU your school. The ASU code is 001081.
What types of financial aid are there?
There are two types: gift aid and self-help aid. Gift aid is federal grants, institutional grants and scholarships. Self-help aid is student employment, federal student loans and private loans.
Who can get federal financial aid?
Students must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen and have a valid Social Security number. For full eligibility requirements, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/basic-criteria.
This should not discourage you from filling out a FAFSA. Just keep reading!
FAFSA: The basics
Filling out a FAFSA can make you eligible for multiple types of financial aid — including grants, scholarships, loans and work-study. Remember, there is never a fee to submit a FAFSA.
Submit FAFSA as soon as possible; money awarded is on a first-come, first-served basis. Although you may not qualify for federal financial aid, FAFSA submission may be required by some scholarship applications.
Types of aid: The breakdown
So what’s the difference in the different forms of financial aid?
The main difference is whether you will have to pay back the money you receive. Grants and scholarships you do not have to repay. Loans you must repay, with interest. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference, so read all forms very carefully.
There are two major types of loans: private and federal, for which the U.S. Department of Education is the lender. The two most common categories of loans are subsidized and unsubsidized.
Subsidized loans are loans for students who demonstrate financial need. The loan does not accrue interest while you’re in school at least half-time, for the first six months after you leave school and during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments). Thereafter, you are responsible for paying the amount borrowed and interest will start to accrue.
Unsubsidized loans are loans where financial need is not a factor. With an unsubsidized loan, the student is responsible for paying interest during all periods, which means interest starts to accrue from the time the money is borrowed. If the student chooses not to pay the interest during school, grace periods, deferment or forbearance periods, the interest will be added to the principal (the amount originally borrowed).
When a student fills out the FAFSA, he or she may qualify to receive both types of loans, but the student can choose how much money to borrow or decline the loan offered. It’s important to borrow only the money that is needed and remember that it is money that will need to be paid back.
Set some time aside, do the research, fill out those applications, and lighten that tuition bill … responsibly.
Veterans, we got your six
The advocacy team at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center consists of veterans who have successfully navigated the college experience after military service. They can help with questions about VA benefits, financial aid options and understanding issues that veteran students may come across.
“Besides helping our veteran students with their educational benefits and how to get all of that processed, we want to help them with the transition from military to civilian and taking it to the next level of helping them integrate into the college life,” said Michelle Loposky, military and veteran advocate.
Active military, veteran and dependent students using education benefits to fund their education should know that scholarships can be an additional source of funding that does not reduce VA education benefits.
Loposky recommends veterans complete a FAFSA, search for scholarships and use their GI Bill wisely. Scholarship resources include:
• ASU Veterans Education Fund
• Arizona Tuition Waiver Scholarship (Purple Heart waiver)
• Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (for students whose parent is a current or veteran Marine)
• Military Active Duty and Reservist Commitment Scholarship (online military scholarship)
• Tillman Military Scholarships
• ASU Scholarship Portal
For more information visit https://military.asu.edu/pat-tillman-veterans-center or https://veterans.asu.edu.
DACA students, what you need to know
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients cannot receive federal, state or institutional aid. But DACA students do have the option to apply for private scholarships and loans, and students can also apply for hourly on-campus employment positions. To view job postings, visit https://students.asu.edu/employment.
Although not qualified to receive federal, state or institutional aid, DACA recipients should still submit a FAFSA. The EFC (Expected Family Contribution) generated by the submittal of the FAFSA will determine financial need and may be required by private scholarship applications.
Private scholarships that do not specify U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in eligibility criteria or that do not require a Social Security number may be available to students regardless of their immigration status. Some helpful tips:
• Search for private scholarships through ASU’s scholarship site.
• Complete any ASU Scholarship Portal Applications by the Feb. 2 priority date, as many private donors require this application.
• Seek out national or local organizations that may offer or list private scholarships.
For more information, visit https://students.asu.edu/scholarships/resources/other.
Top 5 tips for scholarship application
1. If you’re eligible for a scholarship, apply!
No matter how small the amount, every little bit helps.
2. Use the ASU Scholarship Portal.
The ASU Scholarship Portal collects your applications for multiple scholarships and saves your responses to common questions so that you don’t need to complete the information twice. However, you must choose which scholarships you wish to apply for and complete an application for each one.
3. Stay organized.
Keep a calendar with the deadlines of all the scholarships you are applying for. You do all the work and then miss a deadline? Time wasted.
4. Have all required paperwork ready.
Certain applications require a resume, cover letter and additional documents. Have the most-requested documents on hand to make the most of your time.
Some scholarships will require recommendation letters. Through the ASU Scholarship Portal, you can enter the names and email addresses of those you would like to submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf. (Also, it’s common courtesy to ask someone’s permission before listing him or her as a reference.)
5. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
If the scholarship requires an essay, organize your thoughts, personalize your essay and write about something you’re interested in or passionate about. Most importantly, proofread for spelling and grammar.
When in doubt, ask for help
College can be affordable and manageable. When in doubt, seek the help of an ASU financial aid adviser, who can help with the tricky questions.
Doing research online and knowing the terminology helps you fully understand what kind of aid you are accepting (is that scholarship really a scholarship, or a loan?). In turn, you make better financial choices that will not catch you by surprise and are manageable after life at ASU.
For tuition that isn’t covered by scholarships or aid, there is help as well. ASU offers students a tuition payment plan that breaks down tuition into several payments over the course of the semester, allowing students to budget over several months. More information can be found on ASU’s Tuition and Billing site.
For more information, visit the ASU Financial Aid website, https://students.asu.edu/financialaid, and for more in-depth information about the FAFSA application process and FAFSA deadlines, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.