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Free help filling out Federal Student Aid applications

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BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) - The deadline for federal financial aid forms is coming up. The program provides $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 13 million students paying for college or career school. Filing a FAFSA can be complicated and sometimes overwhelming.

The Virginia Tech Director of University Scholarships and Financial Aid says the form has changed over the last few years. There are safeguard so it knows if you accidentally put in the wrong information and they don't ask as many questions as they used to.

"Because of the history of that complication people have over inflated that in their minds. There's been a lot that's been done over the last two years to simplify the process and we really tried to help families ensure that they meet those deadlines for filing the FAFSA," said Beth Armstrong, Virginia Tech Director of University Scholarships and Financial Aid.

"February is a key time for financial planning for students and their families. Virginia Tech has a priority deadline of March 1 for the FAFSA. It's critical to meet that deadline so you can be considered for the most possible aid," said Armstrong. "If you miss the deadline, you may miss out on grants and other forms of aid. We hope this event can help alleviate some stress and get an application in on time."

To help families cut through the confusion, Virginia Tech is hosting FAFSA Fridays this month. Students do not have to be current or prospective Virginia Tech students to attend the event. Virginia Western is hosting an event Saturday to help families.

VIRGINIA TECH EVENTS:

They have open hours every Friday in February for individuals and families to stop by their office with no appointment needed and get help completing the FAFSA. The office is in the Student Services Building located at 800 Washington Street SW.

Last Friday, the office helped more than a dozen families during a two-hour period. Representatives fielded questions and helped families complete the application.

The office will have three additional opportunities this month, including:

  • Feb. 12, 3-7 p.m.
  • Feb. 19, 3-5 p.m.
  • Feb. 26, 3-7 p.m.

Students do not have to be current or prospective Virginia Tech students to attend the event. Community members who plan to attend other colleges and universities are still welcome to come.

Families who want to attend a FAFSA Friday are encouraged to create a FAFSA ID ahead of the event, which can be done online. An ID must be created for the student and another for a parent, if the student is a dependent. In addition, information about 2015 income will be needed to complete the application.

"One reason we hear that families miss the priority deadline is that they waited until after they filed their taxes for the year. Don't let that delay you," Armstrong said. "You can use estimated federal income tax information in order to meet the priority deadline and then update with the actual number later on."

In addition to the FAFSA, the office also encourages continuing students and first-year applicants to apply for scholarships. The general scholarship application at Virginia Tech is due on Monday, Feb. 15. Students can also check with their colleges and departments for additional scholarship opportunities, with varying process requirements and deadlines.

VIRGINIA WESTERN EVENT:

Virginia Western Community College Great FAFSA Fill Out is on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third floor of Webber Hall on the Virginia Western Campus.

Students applying for financial aid to attend college beginning with the 2016 Fall term can get free information and assistance. Experienced financial aid staff from area colleges and universities will be available to answer questions and assist students in completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to any college or university.

This event is open to current high school seniors and their parents, returning college students and adults interested in attending college. Parents of dependent students are strongly encouraged to attend with their student as parent information and an electronic signature are required. Once the student leaves this event, he or she will have initiated the financial aid process for any college they are interested in attending.

If possible, students should bring the following items to the event:

  • Social security number (student and parent)
  • Driver's license (if applicable)
  • Bank and investment statements
  • Completed or estimated student and parent 2015 federal tax returns
  • W-2 forms and any non-taxable income documentation received in 2015

For more information, please contact the Virginia Western Financial Aid Office at (855) 874-6690. A campus map and directions to Webber Hall can be found at: http://www.virginiawestern.edu/about/visitingvwcc.php.