The FAFSA4caster is not an application for aid, but is a planning tool for anyone not yet ready to submit a FAFSA form. It is highly recommended that high school juniors, and parents with children even as early as middle school should use the FAFSA4caster to receive early estimates of federal aid, create scenarios based on future earnings, and then work on college funding strategies.
How Does The FAFSA4caster Work?
The FAFSA4caster can help families estimate the amount of federal student aid a student might receive based on a family’s income and assets.
The results are offered in terms of the potential eligibility for a Federal Pell grant, federal work study, and student loans.
By learning this information early, families can get a head start on understanding the amount of aid they might be qualified to receive. Families should use this information to help determine which colleges they may or may not be able to afford.
How Do I Use The FAFSA4caster?
Gather financial documents
You’ll need asset information for both the student and parents or guardians.
Asset information includes information on most cash and bank accounts. Common exclusions are retirement accounts, home equity in your primary residence, and the value of life insurance.
The value of family farms and small businesses with less than 100 employees are also excluded.
Input basic information
The FAFSAForecaster takes only five minutes to fill out. You will input asset information, dependent information, and tax information from the last tax return you filed.
Spend the time to fill out each question thoroughly as it will be good practice for when it’s time to fill out the real forms in your senior year.
Review Your Potential Federal Aid Eligibility
After you click submit, the FAFSA4caster will then take you to a page with your potential Federal Pell Grant eligibility amount, work study eligibility amount, and Direct Stafford loan eligibility amount.
Pell grants are federal grants based on need. The amount you receive can vary quite a bit by school because cost of attendance is a factor.
Work study is the maximum work study amount you can receive.
Work study money is given in exchange for hours worked on or off campus. The amount paid per hour starts at minimum wage.
The amount of student loans awarded is the maximum awarded to the student. Parent PLUS loans aren’t included in the estimate.
The FAFSA4caster doesn’t tell you about scholarships from the college, state grants or university grants.
It also doesn’t tell you your EFC, but it does essentially tell you how how your EFC affects you.
Can I Change The Amount Of Federal Aid I’m Eligible For?
First, remember the amount of federal financial aid awarded is based partly on a family’s adjusted gross income from tax returns filed two years prior.
Even after you file the FAFSA, you can file a special circumstances form if your family experienced an income drop or excessive medical expenses happens afterwards.
Second, play with the numbers.
By using the FAFSAforecaster, you can see how parent assets affect federal aid eligibility versus student assets.
You may be able to reduce student assets by shifting student savings into a 529 account for college savings or moving money to a parent’s account.
Quick tips for using the FAFSA4caster:
- Gather your financial documents including tax information, bank information, and property information.
- The FAFSA4caster is best for estimating federal grants, student loans, and work study estimates. You can use the College Board EFC calculator to help estimate your EFC.
- Play with numbers in the calculators. You may be able to make changes to how your income and assets are interpreted by the government and colleges themselves.
- Ask questions of your high school counselor if any information is confusing. You don’t want an error you make filling out the form next year to cost your student financial aid.
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