Getting Financial Aid for Nursing School: Your Guide to the FAFSA

 

fasfaOne of the biggest concerns potential nursing students confront is finding the money to pay for nursing school. Luckily, the vast majority of nursing students manage to get help through nursing school with financial assistance of some type of other, and virtually everyone is eligible for some financial aid!

Financial aid is money from federal, state, College and University programs and private sources used to pay college costs. The very first thing you need to do in order to determine what financial aid you will qualify for is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form used by virtually all two and four-year colleges, universities and career schools for the awarding of federal student aid and most state and college aid. The amount and type of federal aid the U.S. Department of Education provides doesn't always depend solely on financial need. Once students apply for aid, many are surprised by the amount of aid they receive!

That being said, the FAFSA is no stroll in the park. It can be time-consuming and confusing, not to mention downright maddening! One new nurse, Rhonda, admits that she delayed her application to nursing school by over a year because she did not submit the FAFSA on time. "I know it's ridiculous, but I procrastinated so much that I missed the deadline for every single school I was interested in," says Rhonda. "Every time I sat down to fill out the FAFSA, I got so frustrated."

Don't wait until you are admitted to a nursing school to file your FAFSA form. Do it right away! This guide will help you through the process of downloading the FAFSA, gathering the necessary records, filling out the FAFSA and submitting it.

Preparing to Complete The FAFSA

Decide How You Prefer to File Your FAFSA Form: You can file your FAFSA online through FAFSA on the Web, or you can complete a PDF FAFSA and then mail it on, or you can request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 319-337-5665. If you are hearing impaired, please contact the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913. Using FAFSA on the Web is faster and easier than using PDF or paper, but make sure you hit the "Save" button now & then so if you have a computer glitch or you need to reload, you can retrieve your application.

Obtain a PIN Number: If you plan to file your FAFSA online you will need a PIN number. Your PIN can be used each year to electronically apply for federal student aid and to access your Federal Student Aid records online. If you're new to the financial aid process and need to obtain a PIN number you can apply for one online at http://www.pin.ed.gov/PINWebApp/pinindex.jsp. Your PIN serves as your electronic signature and provides access to your personal records, so you should never give your PIN to anyone!

Pay Attention to Deadlines: Schools and states often use FAFSA information to award nonfederal aid. Their deadlines are usually early in the year. You can find state deadlines at FAFSA on the Web or on the paper FAFSA. Check with the schools you're interested in for their deadlines.

Gather Your Financial Information and Supportive Materials: Take the time to follow this checklist and gather all your materials beforehand. It might even be a good idea to create a folder especially for organizing information about financial aid so that everything is in one place. You're going to need the following:

  1. Your Social Security Number (can be found on your SSN card)
  2. Your driver's license (if you have one)
  3. Your W-2 Forms and other records of earned income
  4. Your most recent Federal Income Tax Return
    • If you are married and not filing jointly, you will need your spouse's return as well
    • If you are a dependent student, you will use your parent's most recent tax return
  5. Your untaxed income records for the past year
    • - Veterans benefits records
    • - Child support received
    • - Worker's compensation
  6. Your current bank statements
  7. Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records.
  8. Your alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

If possible, file your tax return first and then do the FAFSA. This will ensure that your records are up to date, and it will also save you time since you'll have to gather a lot of the same documents in order to file your taxes.

Next: Fill out the FAFSA

Because some aid is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis, it's important that you submit your application as soon as possible after January 1. Don't wait until the last minute to fill it out. Either set aside a whole morning when you know you won't be disturbed, or fill it out bit by bit in ten-minute increments when you have the time. Complete all questions accurately, and estimate if necessary in order to meet early deadlines. Be sure to double-check everything before submitting the FAFSA so that you receive all the aid to which you're entitled, and keep a copy for your records. Remember that the FAFSA is FREE! Don't pay anyone to complete your FAFSA!

Getting Help Completing Your FAFSA

SimpleTuition FAFSA Coach: SimpleTuition knows that financial aid forms are complex, confusing, and difficult to complete. That's why they offer a free FAFSA Coach tool called "Tuition Coach". TuitionCoach provides online worksheets that demystify financial aid forms, and step-by-step instructions that make it easy to understand and complete the forms with confidence. Even better, their worksheets include built-in guidance that can help you get the best financial aid results. There's absolutely no cost to use this service.

SimpleTuition Offers free tips, advice, interactive tools and deals that ensure students plan better for college costs, pay less for college-related expenses and be smarter about how they manage and pay back their student loans. From tuition and student loans, to textbooks and scholarships, SimpleTuition has got you covered. Paying for college can be a long road. We'll show you the way.

Understanding Your Results

After your FAFSA is processed, it will be returned to you with a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR shows your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). When you are accepted to a nursing school, the school uses your FAFSA to determine your individual Cost of Attendance and Expected Family Contribution. Review your SAR information and make any corrections or changes, if necessary. The school(s) you list on your FAFSA will get your SAR data electronically.

At that point your school's financial aid officer will review the Student Aid Report (SAR) and be able to tell you the amount of financial aid you qualify for and also advise you about other potential sources of aid such as scholarships, programs the college offers, and other options such as loans. Then you will be better able to compare your financial aid packages from various nursing schools to decide where you should pursue your degree.

It's as simple as that. With a little pre-planning and attention to detail, you can ensure that your FAFSA is correctly filed. With federal financial aid programs, scholarships, and possibly employer paid tuition assistance plans to help defray the costs, nursing school can be the next big adventure on your horizon!

References

FAFSA on the Web: Apply for federal student aid online using FAFSA on the Web(the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Student Aid on the Web: The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website.