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December 17, 2019

In the same amount of time it takes to watch a sitcom, you could make yourself eligible for money to help pay for college.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a single application to assess your eligibility for federal educational grants, loans, and work-study programs. It takes about 30 minutes to fill out—and it’s free.

Completing the FAFSA is also the first step to apply for many need-based scholarship opportunities. Scholarship organizations and donors rely on the data verified through the FAFSA before determining how much aid they’ll offer students.

Sound daunting? It’s not! We’re here to help.

Here’s how it works

In the simplest terms, the FAFSA results provide an estimate of how much your family could pay for your education (the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC). The difference between that and the total cost of attendance at the school determines your financial need.

You must complete and submit a new FAFSA each year you are in school. The FAFSA can be completed online or through the myStudentAid app for mobile devices. The intuitive application helps reduce errors and speed up the process by asking only those questions relevant to your situation during the process.

Think you aren’t eligible for financial aid? Fill it out anyway! Many families find they are eligible for something. Schools that award private scholarships or other merit-based aid may require the FAFSA to be on file. Plus, your state may use your FAFSA EFC calculation to determine eligibility for state-funded grants and scholarships.

Planning to work through college? The FAFSA can help.

"Work-study programs, including the Federal Work-Study Program, can give you the chance to develop professional skills and earn a paycheck while you’re a student," says Ashley Jost, Coordinator-Financial Aid at JCCC. "You can only access the Federal Work-Study Program by completing the FAFSA."

The 2020-21 FAFSA is available now! 

To get started, you’ll need:

  • Your FSA ID (create if you haven’t already done so)
  • Your Social Security card and driver’s license
  • Your 2018 tax return including W2 forms
  • Your parent(s) 2018 tax return including W2 forms if considered dependent

Some tips for a successful application:

  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) through the FAFSA if eligible
  • Use the “Help” buttons – they are available throughout the application
  • You can list up to 10 schools, so include any school you may be interested in

Apply early

Deadlines matter. Some awards are first come, first served. You can complete the FAFSA anytime after Oct. 1 and preferably by your chosen school’s priority deadline date.

JCCC’s Financial Aid Office has a March 15 priority deadline and begins awarding for the new aid year in early spring. And do not forget scholarships! Be sure to complete the JCCC Scholarship Application every year by the April 1 priority deadline! Apply by then for a better chance to be awarded all the aid and JCCC scholarships you’re eligible to receive.

"Financial Aid staff offer an evening FAFSA event each fall. They can also work with you one-on-one," Jost says. Call 913-469-3840 or stop by SC 253 to make an appointment.