Things are much easier in the current age of the Internet—students, including adult learners, no longer have to go into the college to apply for student aid. Instead they can apply online using the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Not only is it a quicker process but also the student will know quickly whether he or she qualifies and can then proceed to enroll in the college of choice.
Instead of requesting an application or filling out and printing a PDF copy, you can fill out the FAFSA online. The process is much quicker and easier and in addition if you filed a tax return the previous year you can elect to download the information into your FAFSA instead of having to attach the information to a paper application. The only problem that may occur is those who may have recently applied for a social security number such as those moving to the United States from another country may encounter problems when they attempt to fill out the FAFSA online. In that case it will be necessary for the student to contact the Federal Student Aid Financial Office for instructions on filling out the FAFSA.
One thing students want to avoid is assuming because it is the Internet they can fill out the application, and it will be processed for the current or upcoming school semester. There are deadlines for both the federal government (currently June 30, 2012) and also for individual states. In addition the college you plan to attend may also have its own deadlines, so you need to be aware of when you need to submit your FAFSA in order to be guaranteed entrance into college for the next semester. If your application is not filed on time you may face two possibilities: paying the first semester yourself or waiting until the following semester to begin classes.
In addition to the speed and accuracy of filing your FAFSA online there is also another advantage: tracking. Instead of having to call the Student Aid Financial Office or wait for notification, you can track the progress of your application online. This is a definite advantage if you are waiting to find out whether you qualify for student aid before you officially enroll in college.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the FAFSA does not include all potential sources of grants, scholarships and student loans but all those backed by the federal government. It will still be necessary for you to research and locate other sources of financial aid in order to guarantee full payment of your educational expenses. You may also find other sources of funding in the financial aid package you receive when you enroll in college.
However, you need to remember if you are 24 or younger and unmarried you must also include income of your parents even if you do not live with them. Being aware of all this information before you apply for the FAFSA provides you the necessary time to gather all the information you need to complete the FAFSA.