Simplifying federal financial aid

financial aid

(Rick Nease / Detroit Free Press / McClatchy – Tribune)

High school students who are headed to college are constantly reminded that by their senior year they are going to have to learn the financial aid system, beginning with the FAFSA.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form that is used by, both undergraduate and graduate students to determine their eligibility to receive federal aid.

Having to find the money to pay for school can be overwhelming but the FAFSA makes this easy by providing an easy to follow form for students to fill out.

Federal financial aid comes in three forms: grants, loans and federal work-study.

Information regarding the FAFSA can be found at the financial aid office or at the Citrus College financial aid website. The website can be used for information regarding the FAFSA as well as scholarships, loans, grants and the links to print financial aid documents that the financial aid office no longer has available.

The FAFSA can be completed online at or printed out and sent in to the address on the forms by mail. The completed FAFSA is processed and sent to the colleges selected by the student.

To fill out the FAFSA the student must set up a PIN number to protect the personal and financial information that is required on the form.

The form will ask for basic personal information, such as address and Social Security number. It then asks for a list of prospective colleges or the college of attendance.

The next few steps are the most tedious because they require parent information as well.  The student will need to enter parent(s) basic personal information followed by their financial information as well, such as their income.

One of the most important steps of the FAFSA is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This is where tax information gets inserted and is then used by financial aid offices to determine what the student may or may not qualify for in the upcoming academic year.

After the form is completed, the student and the parent(s) will sign. If the student is using the online form this is done with the PIN number created at the beginning of the filing process.

Once submitted, the FAFSA information is shared with the designated colleges. From there the respective financial aid offices will determine how much federal aid an applicant may receive.

When filling out the FAFSA be sure to allow at least 30 minutes to complete the near 130 questions as well as time to gather tax information which is a task in itself.

Keep the deadlines in mind.

Financial aid typically runs on a first-come first-served basis. So although the FAFSA for the 2013-2014 school year can still be submitted until June 2014 it is recommended that the form is submitted as early as possible.

It is highly recommended to fill out the FAFSA because whether it is in the form of a federal loan or a grant, there is always a chance for students to receive some form of financial aid.

The Citrus College financial aid office is located in the Student Services building; the office is open Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.