To get financial aid from the federal government or the State of Hawai'i, students MUST complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information provided on the FAFSA determines if a student is eligible for financial aid.
Completing the FAFSA is important because it determines what a family can contribute toward the cost of attending college, which includes tuition, fees, housing, and other costs such as transportation and books. If a family's estimated contribution does not cover what it costs the student to attend colege, then the student is eligible for financial aid. A student's financial aid may come in the form of need-based grants, scholarships, student and parent educational loans, and work-study opportunities.
You can find out if your family qualities for federal financial aid by going to http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov to get an early estimate of eligibility for federal student aid. This Web site provides an opportunity to increase your knowledge of the financial aid process, become familiar with the various types of federal student aid that are available, and investigate other sources of aid such as grants and scholarships.
Much of the actual financial aid paperwork will be done during a student's senior year. But preparing for the actual tasks that students and parents will have to do is key to navigating the financial aid process. Some high schools hold financial aid workshops. If they do, it's a good idea for parents to attend a workshop before their child is a senior to become familiar with the financial aid application process.
Also, plan to attend a College Goal Sunday event in your community to get free help in completing the FAFSA. The dates for 2013 are January 13 (Oahu, Hilo, Maui, Kauai) and January 20 (Kona).
Consulting with high school guidance counselors, college financial aid advisors, books, friends, and checking out the Internet can also be very helpful in identifying what kinds of financial aid a family can be eligible for.