Traci Marfilius, 22, grew up in Patch Grove, Wisconsin, received her bachelor's degree from Winona State University in Minnesota, and is now working toward her master's in social work at Rutgers-Camden.
Although a $5,000 scholarship from a local company helped out during her undergraduate studies, Traci still had to take out a bundle of low-interest federal loans to finance her education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. By the time she graduates next year, Traci figures she'll have taken on more than $30,000 of loans at the graduate level alone.
The starting point for Traci and many other students was filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is used to determine a person's eligibility for financial aid. This is a federal document, although many state assistance programs also use it. The FAFSA can be filled out online or in paper format.
After processing your FAFSA, the Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), and will make an electronic copy of your results available to the schools you list on your FAFSA. The schools use your SAR's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number to determine if you will receive federal financial aid. If you qualify, the school prepares a financial aid package to help you meet your financial needs.
"The form was fairly easy to fill out," adds Traci. "And I've got a pretty good interest rate, 2.77% on a Stafford Loan, where the interest is subsidized while I'm still in school." When you're looking at a loan of more than $30,000, that low interest rate can really come in handy.
For more information on student financial aid, visit the U.S. Department of Education's Schools Portal at fsa4schools.ed.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-(800)-4-FED-AID (1-(800)-433-3243) or 1-(319)-337-5665.