For many, FAFSA is somewhat complicated and often misunderstood – especially for those who are applying for financial aid for the first time.
That’s why Arne Duncan, our own Secretary of Education, once told congress “You basically need a Ph.D. to figure that thing out.”1 Yes, he was referring to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
But don’t ever let it deter you from submitting your FAFSA and getting the aid for which you qualify, even if you think you won’t qualify.
The U.S. Department of Education offers an online FAFSA tool, officially known as the FAFSA4Caster, that helps you & your family familiarize with the financial aid process.
Designed to provide a full simulation of the actual FAFSA process, this handy tool gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid, and your approximate Expected Family Contribution (EFC) so you can plan ahead and increase the odds of getting aid.
The FAFSA4Caster form will need certain financial information so have the following documents handy:
- Social Security Number,
- tax documents from the previous year,
- W-2 forms for both the student and parents,
- bank statements,
- investment statements and
- information on assets (if any).
The 4Caster serves as a great warm-up for you to start exploring your options; it can give a good sense of what types of student aid you may receive and how much you would need to contribute toward your college expenses.
In fact, using the official FAFSA4Caster will save you significant time later since you can transfer data directly from FAFSA4caster to FAFSA on the Web, which helps streamline the process.
To get started, visit www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov and of course, you don’t have to be a a Ph.D to use this tool.