General FAFSA Information
The acronym FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completion of the FAFSA is the first step in the financial aid process for obtaining aid from the federal and California government agencies. In addition, many institutions utilize the information from the FAFSA in evaluating individuals for financial aid qualification.
Types of information reported on the FAFSA include the studentís demographic information, the studentís earnings and assets, identification of the studentís financial dependency status, and the parentís income and assets if the student is determined to be financially dependent on the parent(s). Additionally, the student is able to list the higher education institutions that will receive the data from the U. S. Department of Education once their FAFSA is processed. These institutions will use the data provided to assemble a financial aid package for the student. (Caution: Some higher education institutions require an additional or different financial reporting document. Check with the higher education institution of your choice to verify what financial reporting documentation is required by them).
Once the student has filed the FAFSA, the U. S. Department of Education will check it for completeness and accuracy. Any corrections needed to be made will be identified and reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR) that is then returned to the student. Students should carefully review the SAR for any changes that need to be made and submit the new information as soon as possible to prevent delay in receiving financial aid packages from the higher education institutions of choice.
An important piece of data on the SAR is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure. The EFC number is calculated by the U. S. Department of Education using the information provided on the FAFSA. The EFC is the amount the U. S. Department of Education expects the studentís family to contribute towards the studentís education that school year and is used to determine federal student aid eligibility. The higher education institution will subtract the EFC amount from the estimated cost of attendance to determine the estimated need the student will have in paying for college and will assemble a financial aid package aimed towards reducing the need and making college affordable to the student.
The first word in FAFSA is free. There is no need to pay for help with your FAFSA. Assistance in completing the FAFSA and understanding the information on the SAR is available from many sources. For help contact Federal Student Aid Information Center (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/contact.htm or 1-800-433-3243), Merced County Cal-SOAP (209-386-6609), college financial aid office, or your school counselor.