If you are a high school senior beginning your college search, you might have already heard people mention filing your FAFSA. But what is the FAFSA, and why is it important when planning for college?

The Basics

The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is used to determine how much financial aid you qualify to receive from the government to help you pay for college. Some universities, including Cornerstone University, also use the FAFSA to distribute need-based scholarships to students.

The FAFSA analyzes your financial assets based on your and your family’s tax information and creates a financial aid portfolio determining how much aid you are eligible to receive. The amounts and types of aid you can qualify for vary from grants (free money) to loans (money that needs to be paid back later).

The FAFSA is a free application that can be completed any time after Oct. 1. However, if you live in Michigan and are interested in the Michigan Tuition Grant, it’s important to complete the FAFSA by March 1.

How It Works

Filling out your FAFSA can sometimes feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to. Before you get started, here are a few helpful tricks.

First, both you and your parent (or legal guardian) need to have a Federal Student Aid ID. The FSA ID is a free virtual form of identification that you create within the FAFSA application and is used to access your FAFSA after filing it.

Once you have created your FSA ID and have filled in preliminary information, you will need your tax information from the previous year. Luckily, the application has a helpful tool called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that retrieves your IRS information so that you don’t have to enter in all your financial information. This free tool saves you a lot of time.

The last thing to remember when you fill out your FAFSA is that you can select which colleges you want to receive a copy of your financial aid information using their schools codes.  For Cornerstone, you can put in our college code of 002266 in the college prompt.

For any other questions, you can contact Cornerstone’s Financial Aid Office, visit the FSA help page and chat with the virtual assistant or contact the FSA Information Center for personalized assistance.

For more information about paying for college, view this free guide and check out Cornerstone’s FAFSA tips page.