What is all this FAFSA About?

By RENE TREZISE, Director of Marketing and Communications, Potomac State College


 A buzz word at this time of year for any student preparing to go off to college in the fall  isFAFSA. This acronym stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is available from high school guidance counselors, college admissions offices and the web at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. All college-bound students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA since there is no application fee.


The key point to remember here is that the FAFSA must be received by the federal processor no later than March 1, in order to receive maximum consideration for aid. Please keep in mind that FAFSAs submitted by mail will require a longer processing time than if submitted online. Bottom line: Be sure and allow enough time. Should the student miss this deadline, still complete and submit the FAFSA application… the chance of receiving some aid is better than receiving no aid, which is the case if a FAFSA is not submitted.


If parents or guardians have completed their federal tax returns and can use that information when filling out the FAFSA – great! However, if federal tax returns have yet to be filled out --  DO NOT WAIT.  Instead, provide your best estimate of what will appear on your tax returns. After submitting your FAFSA, the federal processor will return to the student a Student Aid Report (SAR) at which time data must be reviewed and any necessary corrections can be made based on completed official tax returns. The corrected document must then be returned to the federal processor.


Once the SAR is returned to the federal processor and all information is correct, the schools that were listed on the FAFSA will start to process aid for the student. If items are missing, contradictory or if the student was selected for verification, those issues will have to be resolved before aid can be determined.


The information which you provide on the FAFSA will allow the federal processor to calculate what your family should be able to afford for the student’s education – this is called your Expected Family Contribution. The Expected Family Contribution is subtracted from the total cost of attending your college (including books, travels and miscellaneous expenses). The result will be your need. The college will attempt to meet the student’s need by offering a combination of grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study.


Once your aid is processed, an award letter is mailed which will tell you about the aid which will be offered to you.


Students must be admitted to their college by February 15 for maximum consideration for scholarship assistance.


Keep in mind that college is affordable and achievable. By deciding to attend college, your student is investing in his or her future earning power and job satisfaction. Borrowing a reasonable amount of money to afford college may be a wise decision. Don’t sell your student short by assuming that college is not attainable due to lack of money.


Additional resources:

What is FAFSA? http://www.fafsa.ed.gov

Mineral County Technical Center http://mctc.mine.tec.wv.us

Potomac State College of WVU http://www.potomacstatecollege.edu

Financial Aid, Guide to student financial aid. http://www.finaid.org

WV Mentor, A source for higher education in West Virginia. http://www.wvmentor.org

WV Promise Scholarship, How to apply and requirement. http://www.promisescholarships.org

Pell Grant, Federal grant program. http://www.studentaid.ed.gov