To start the process of obtaining financial aid, you have to start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The earliest you can submit your application is on or after January 1, and then it takes three to four weeks to find out what aid you will get. That doesn't give you all the time in the world to plan, and it certainly doesn't help you choose colleges to apply to. Who wants to waste application fees on a college that's out of the question financially? Well, the federal government has a new site that can estimate your eligibility for financial aid ealry!
FederalStudentAid.ed.gov is a new and a free site called FAFSA4-caster, which has been developed by the Department of Education. The site can help you predict the amount of your financial aid package and can also let you know if you might qualify for a Pell Grant up to $4,000+. And, it does so at any time—even right now. By next fall, the Department is hoping to upgrade the forecaster so that you can also determine your eligibility for federal loans.
When you log on, you will be asked to provide information to basic questions like the earnings of your parents and how many of your siblings are in college. Remember you can fill this information out on the site at any time so that you have a decent prediction of what financial help you may be eligible for.
But, 4-caster is NOT a substitute for the FAFSA form itself. You will still have to fill that form out during the fall of your senior year, but the information you have used on 4-caster can be re-used to complete FAFSA, which saves time. Another thing to remember is that if your parents' salaries change or your family has any other kinds of financial changes, you should go back to 4-caster and re-figure because any such change could affect your financial aid prediction.
Why not use every tool available to you to plan ahead for the right college choice!
That's Not All
This web site also has a search engine that can help you find scholarships, or you can get tutorials on the financial aid process.
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