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Figuring Out FAFSA

Students walk in and out of Somsen Hall

The FAFSA is the first step in figuring out how to get yourself to Winona State.

To begin this post, I’m going to toss a little piece of common knowledge: College costs a lot of money—and people don’t usually have a spare $15K lying around the house.

Maybe you’re lucky enough not to need any financial aid, but you’re probably more like me and the other 88% of WSU students who receive some form of financial aid. And the first step to receiving that financial aid is submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Actually, filing your FAFSA is the only step to apply for financial aid at WSU. To get started, go to the FAFSA website and click the link to “Start a New FAFSA.” You’ll then have to create an account using your name, Social Security number and date of birth. Then, there will be a series of questions about things like your family’s income, the size of your family, how many children will be in college next year and your personal income (if you had to file taxes). You will also need to know Winona State’s Title IV school code, which is 002394.

But before all the numbers start to freak you out, know that there are directions and explanations next to the each question to help you if you get confused as well as an entire FAFSA help site.

Once you finish the questions and hit “submit,” you’re done. I’ve never understood why people complain that the FAFSA is so hard to fill out. Honestly, the hardest part about filing the FAFSA is finding the various necessary documents which, depending on your family circumstances and financial situation, might include:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns for you and for your parents if you are a dependent student
  • Records of your untaxed income for you and for your parents if you are a dependent student
  • Information on cash, savings and checking account balances, investments, and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student

(This list was adapted from a more detailed list that can be found here)

The FAFSA doesn’t actually award you any financial aid; it simply calculates the amount of money your family is reasonably responsible for providing towards your education. This is called your expected family contribution, or EFC. The WSU Financial Aid Office uses your EFC to determine the amount of need-based and non-need-based aid you can receive. The federal government and Minnesota government also use your EFC and other FAFSA information in determining your eligibility for grants and student loans. So, by filing out the FAFSA, you’ve gotten an automatic 3 for 1 deal for financial aid applications!

Now that I’ve explained it to you, it doesn’t seem so intimidating or difficult does it?

So get on over to the FAFSA site and apply now. WSU strongly recommends filing your FAFSA by May 15 if you plan to attend the University for the fall semester. Keep in mind that most federal and state aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you want to get your application processed as soon as possible. If you wait until after May 15, you might not get as large a financial aid offer as you would have otherwise received.

I promise you, it’s worth the effort.

–Liz Meinders

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