Getting by

What you need to know before filing the FAFSA

It’s that time of year again. FAFSA time.

A majority of students I’ve talked to during the past couple of years have struggled with the FAFSA and with each passing year, it seems like you get less financial aid.

If you’re struggling with your FAFSA and you’re looking for knowledge and guidance, you’re reading the right article. Now get comfortable while Ol’ Dylan guides you through.

Before beginning, I’m going to explain the four different financial aid awards you can be eligible for. The first one is called a Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is your friend. You can get up to $5,730 and you won’t have to pay a penny of it back. The only downside is that you have to have a “low expected family contribution.” What this means is that if the FAFSA doesn’t think your family can pay at least half of your tuition, then you get the Grant.

The second award is called a Stafford Loan. This is money the government gives you (yes, you have to pay it back). It has a fixed interest rate of 4.66%. Whenever I file the FAFSA, this loan is roughly $5,000 every year.

The third award is another loan called the Federal Perkins Loan. It’s basically the Stafford Loan, but it’s given to you by the school instead of the government and the fixed interest rate is 5%. In case you don’t know by now, the higher the fixed interest rate, the more you have to pay back.

The fourth and final award is the Federal Work-Study Program. In order to be eligible for this, you must have a part-time job on campus. For the past two years I’ve accepted this award, I haven’t gotten any money from this. I’m assuming the financial aid money is what you’re paid on the job.

Now that we know what everything is, let’s get to the dark and gritty part.

There are three ways you can file the FAFSA; online, by phone and by paper. We’ll just ignore the phone and paper parts and pretend that the only way to file it is online (trust me, it’s the easiest way).

Go to This is where you file your FAFSA. It’s pretty easy from there. Just follow the directions and you should be done in no time.

When filling out the form, I often have a hard time with the taxes part. Once you get to that part (which is often the final part), just make sure you put the right numbers in the right parts (parent’s tax information on question 18 or whatever).

The most important thing to know is that the question marks are there for a reason. If you’re unsure what to put down, click them. As long as you have the necessary documents (your parent’s tax information, your tax information, social security number) you’ll be fine.