$25,218 of debt is a lot.
You’d have to work a minimum wage job for 3,478 hours, 20 minutes and 38 seconds to pay that off. Actually minus taxes it’s even more than that. Unfortunately, $25,218 is the average student loan debt in North Carolina.
But there’s no need to despair. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is here! Most students ignore the application and just have their parents or guardians apply. But you, or your kids, aren’t like most students. I know I took a big part in the FAFSA process, and I felt so much more comfortable with my aid negotiations because I understood the process. I’ve included some tidbits of information that will hopefully help you feel confident, too!
1. Here’s The Lowdown On The FAFSA
First, it’s pronounced like “Phaf-sah.” Second, it’s a long application that can take over an hour to complete if you put every number in line by line. You will need your income information and tax forms, and you’ll need those from your parents/guardians, too. If your family owns a business, or has investments, that information is necessary as well. There are many lists online of what you may need.
2. If You Don’t Have That Kind Of Time
You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA to automatically input most of your information on the application. You can only use this if you/your family already filed taxes for that year and the IRS has received all the documents it needs. This definitely saves time, but make sure you still double-check the data.
3. Why You Should Care
After you finish the application, you submit it and it’ll spit out an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number. This EFC is super important. It’s basically the government saying it can confidently expect your family to pay that much (per year) for your college expenses.
4. Why That’s Not As Great As It Sounds
That doesn’t mean the government will cover all costs above that number. They send that number (and your FAFSA application) to a university’s financial aid office, and that office will determine your aid based on that number.
5. What Formula They Use
It changes on each university/college. But here’s an example. Let’s pretend your EFC is $10,000, and annual tuition and fees for college is $25,000. The difference is $15,000, which your institution would consider “need.” Some institutions guarantee that they will cover 100% of need, and some cover less.
6. Why That’s Still Not Great
Your “need” is not covered by aid and scholarships alone. There is no publicly known formula for what percentage of that “need coverage” is loans and how much is scholarships/aid. Even an institution that covers 100% of need could only offer you lots of loans, or an institution that covers 10% may give you a $1,500 scholarship.
7. Why You Should Still Care About The EFC
The lower your EFC, the more scholarships, aid and loans you will qualify for. You want to (legally) do what you can to minimize your EFC as much as you can. Because the formula is so complex, your EFC can be significantly impacted by a bunch of different factors. Knowing these factors can be crucial to maximizing your aid package.
8. Why You Want To Qualify For Loans
Usually, federal loans have better interest rates and more long-term benefits than private loans. Also, federal loans come in two types: unsubsidized and subsidized.
9. Your EFC Is Not Set In Stone
Fun fact: financial aid officers can adjust your FAFSA numbers if you have any new information, or corrected information. They can also adjust it to change your aid. So don’t feel like finishing the application is final and there’s nothing you can do about asking for more aid. You and a financial aid officer can talk about your situation and can adjust things, if possible.
10. Don’t Do It Alone
Just like you go to a mechanic to solve your complex car issues, you should look for help and resources to help you with your FAFSA process. You want to make sure you've input all of the information correctly and you want to make sure you've made financial choices so you'll get the most financial aid that you can get. College Funding Consultants understands the complexities of this college maze. They help families with the process to maximize any aid you can receive and pay for college as comfortably as you can.
Personally, I earned most of my financial aid through FAFSA adjustments and negotiations with the financial aid office. To me, being able to understand the FAFSA is absolutely necessary to getting as much aid as possible. I definitely recommend working with College Funding Consultants, because their team knows the formula and how it changes each year. Since you have to fill out the FAFSA each year you’re in college, you can either take the time to learn the formula yourself, or find people who can help. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to comment! I’d love to hear your FAFSA organization tips.
Hi, I'm Riley! I graduated from college in December 2016, after working to earn over $100,000 in scholarships and aid.