Students interested in attending their CAAHEP accredited sonography program of choice often need help paying for tuition, fees and books. There are many different types of financial aid, including federal and state grants, government backed loans, scholarships administered by the school’s financial aid office, tuition waivers and others. When beginning the search for funding through the financial aid office, one of the first things the student will be asked is whether the FAFSA form has been submitted.
FAFSA: A First Step for Sonography Students
Today, most students can qualify for some type of student aid. Family income is no longer the only criteria considered, but income will influence the type of aid the student qualifies for. Eligibility does require the following:
- Be a U.S. citizen, eligible non-citizen or U.S. national
- Have earned a high school diploma or passed the General Educational Development (GED) tests and earned a Certificate of High School Equivalency
- Have a Social Security Number
- If a male aged 18 to 25 years old, be registered with the U.S. Selective Service
- Not be in default on student loans
- Cannot owe federal student grant refunds
- Has not been convicted of selling or possessing illicit drugs while receiving federal student aid
If the student can meet the eligibility requirements, it is time to complete the FAFSA application. FAFSA is the acronym for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” It is a U.S. Department of Education-Office of Federal Student Aid form that is used to determine the student’s need for financial aid or the Expected Family Contribution. It is the first step in qualifying for financial aid.
Completing the FAFSA Form
Sonography students should complete the FAFSA form well in advance of applying for financial student aid through the school’s financial aid office. The form can be filed with the Department of Education beginning in January of each year. Each year the federal deadline can change, but it is June 30, 2015 for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Timing is important because federal aid is distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. In addition, the school may have a filing deadline that must be met. The filing deadline may be the date the FAFSA was submitted to the federal processor or the date the federal processor returns the needs analysis to the financial aid office.
Once sonography students choose the CAAHEP accredited programs they want to apply to, it is important to check with the financial aid office at each school. Each one has a different set of rules, and missing the FAFSA deadline will make the student ineligible for federal aid as a minimum. Many schools use the FAFSA needs analysis in the distribution of all available financial aid, and not just the federal dollars. Therefore, there are state deadlines for filing the FAFSA form also.
The Department of Education encourages students to file the FAFSA form as soon as possible after the first of January. The form can be filed online or a paper copy sent through the mail.
Know the Deadlines
The federal government has developed a helpful program called the FAFSA4caster that enables people to enter some basic information and get an estimate of federal student aid eligibility. The estimate is presented on a “College Cost Worksheet” which also has room to add estimated amounts of other sources of funding the student may have available.
There are many deadlines to keep in mind when starting the application process:
- Federal FAFSA deadline
- State financial aid deadline
- University, college, or medical center financial aid deadline
- Scholarship deadlines
If the sonography student is applying for a bank loan or other private financial aid outside the school’s process, there will be additional deadlines. The applications must be processed in time to obtain the money before the school’s tuition and fees are due.
Applying for financial aid of any kind requires being organized. A good approach is to make a list of deadlines to ensure none is accidentally missed. The process is too important to risk missing application deadlines.