Demystifying the FAFSA

The FAFSA opened to all college students on October 1 for the 2018-2019 academic year.  FAFSA is the application that most students fill out to apply for federal student aid, grants, and scholarships.


FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The FAFSA was created by the Higher Education Amendments of 1992.  This amendment reauthorized the original Higher Education Act from 1965, the original source of most financial aid for college students.  This act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, also gave funding for research institutions, libraries, work study, and scholarships.  The paper FAFSA first became available to students in 1992.  Soon after in the 1997-1998 award year, FAFSA became available to students through an online form.   
Students must submit a FAFSA each year to reapply for federal student aid, which includes work study, Pell grants, loans, and other aid.  Additionally, state grants and other scholarships may require that a student fill out a FAFSA before applying.  


Filling out the FAFSA is an often confusing and stressful time for even the most prepared students.  Here are some tips to make this year’s FAFSA process a lot easier.  


  1. The earlier, the better

The best strategy you can apply to the FAFSA is that early is easiest!  The most productive way to understand the FAFSA and complete it on time is to start as early as you can.  


Since the FAFSA opened on October 1, you can begin filling out the FAFSA at any time.  Filling out the FAFSA early is crucial, especially if your family’s finances have changed, or if you have any questions about the FAFSA.


Both the federal deadline and Georgia’s own deadline for completing the FAFSA is June 30, 2019.  Any corrections or updates must be submitted by midnight on September 14, 2019.  


These dates are closer than you’d think.  Especially while juggling school, extracurricular activities, and everything else in your life, they will be closer than you realize!  Begin thinking about the paperwork you need to request or find, so you have everything prepared before you start filling out the FAFSA.  


Make sure to make time to fill out the FAFSA at least a few months before it is officially due.  Put it on your calendar, and if you use a virtual calendar, put frequent reminders to show up on your phone or computer until you finish your FAFSA!


  1. Check your Banweb account!

Once you submit your FAFSA, the process isn’t over.  Your FAFSA will be sent to both the Department of Education and the Office of Financial Aid at the University of West Georgia, as well as any other university or college where you choose to send your FAFSA.  Both the Department of Education and these universities process your application.  


But what if your application doesn’t have everything it needs to be processed?  Thankfully, you submitted your application months before the due date, so there is more than enough time for someone to catch any mistakes or omissions you made!


You will be notified through your Banweb account if either of these institutions need more documentation, or if you’ve missed an important section.  


Checking your Banweb account often after you submit a FAFSA is the best way to catch any mistakes on your application.  This will ensure that your application is processed before the due date, and that you can be sure you are applying for the maximum amount of aid you can apply for.


  1. Visit the Enrollment Services Center

The Enrollment Services Center is located on the first floor of Parker Hall, and is your best resource for questions about fee payment deadlines, transcripts, degree verification, food stamp verification, FAFSA, and much more.  


The employees at the Enrollment Services Center have helped countless students with questions about their FAFSA.  Visit them or make an appointment to talk to them about your FAFSA to ensure you file your FAFSA well before it is due.


After your FAFSA is processed and accepted, you will receive an Award Letter, which they can help you understand and use to your best advantage.  They can also help you accept only the student loans that you need, so you have to pay back fewer loans after you graduate.  


If you need other assistance, the Enrollment Services Center can also help you apply for federal work study funding, scholarships, and help your parents or guardians apply for the Parent PLUS or Direct PLUS loan.  


  1. FAFSA Q&A in October


Still have questions?  The Enrollment Services Center is open every business day, and the Office of Financial Aid is also available to take more complicated questions.  


The Office of Financial Aid is also hosting FAFSA Q&A tabling sessions this October.  Financial Aid officers will be available for walk-in questions about the FAFSA and other financial aid questions.  


These sessions will be from 1-3 p.m., on October 4 at the TLC lobby, October 11 at the UCC plaza, October 18 at the TLC lobby, and October 25 at the UCC plaza.  Additionally, one session will be held on the Newnan campus in the main lobby on October 25th from 9-11 a.m.  Please contact the Office of Financial Aid with any questions.



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