Oct 10, 2012

Get a ‘Jump’ on Federal Aid with FAFSA4caster

If you’re looking for a head start on the financial aid process, FAFSA4caster may be just the tool for you. 
Thanks to our friends at the Department of Education, you can use FAFSA4caster to get the ball rolling on the federal process and receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.
And you don’t have to wait until you’re a senior in high school.  Parents of younger students can use the online tool to receive early estimates, create scenarios based on future earnings, and consider various college funding strategies.
Most simply, FAFSA4caster is a free financial aid calculator designed to provide an instant estimate of eligibility for federal aid based on a series of financial and other questions. It's not tied to any particular college, sponsor, or the College Board.
Most of the questions you'll be asked should be easy to answer, but some require information based on recent federal tax information or bank statements.  
And thanks to the FAFSA4caster you can:

  • Receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid
  • Have an experience that’s very similar to FAFSA on the Web
  • Apply for and receive your Federal PIN, which is required for the real FAFSA
  • Learn what kind of information is necessary to have on hand to complete the FAFSA
  • Transfer data from the FAFSA4caster to your FAFSA in January when you’re ready
  • Calculate an estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which will help with college planning
  • Increase your knowledge of the federal aid process and learn more about other sources of aid

When you complete FAFSA4caster, the tool displays a worksheet to help you determine the net cost of attending a particular school—your choice.  A link to College Navigator will provide you with the most up-to-date information on the school’s current cost of attendance and the tool computes an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on information you provide.
Some colleges will even allow you to use the estimated EFC to provide “projected” need-based financial aid awards to students who decide to apply Early Decision.
The “real” FAFSA cannot be submitted until January 1, 2013, but you can fill out a FAFSA4caster now.  And if you question your eligibility for federal aid or if you're just plain curious, there’s no reason not to give it a try.

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