What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a central component of the college financial aid application process. Essentially, the FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for all federal financial aid programs, most state aid programs, as well as institutional aid programs at both private and public colleges and universities. With that said, it is vital that families file the FAFSA each year and by the stated deadlines. The FAFSA for the 2017-18 became available on October 1, 2016 and should be filed by the deadline set by the college’s financial aid office. So for example, if a student would like to enroll in college for the Fall 2017 semester, the 2017-2018 FAFSA should be filed in the Fall of 2016 or thereabouts. Applying early and/or time can make the difference in the amount of financial aid one may be eligible for in some cases due to program allocations.
What Information do I Need to Complete the FAFSA?
The FAFSA asks for information about the college bound student and about their parent(s)/guardian(s), including demographic information and financial information, including income and assets. In order to accurately complete the FAFSA, there are a number of documents/information that will prove useful during FAFSA completion. This information includes: 1) social security number, 2) student driver’s license, if applicable, 3) 2015 Federal Income Tax Form (for the 2017 2018 FAFSA) and/or final paystub from December 2015, 4) 2015 Untaxed Income Records, 5) current bank and investment account statements, 6) W-2 and 1099 Forms or other earnings records. Gathering the information prior to starting the FAFSA can prove helpful and speed up completion time. In addition to gathering necessary documents, it is very helpful to visit the FAFSA website and download the PDF version of the FAFSA. Familiarizing oneself in advance with the form will prove helpful.
When do I Complete the FAFSA?
For the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA can be completed beginning on October 1, 2016.
How do I Complete the FAFSA?
It is strongly recommended to complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov as the online version has built in edit-checks that reduce key errors, ultimately streamlining processing and increasing form accuracy. Also, by completing the FAFSA online, one can quickly make any necessary corrections and updates to the FAFSA and easily send colleges and universities the processed FAFSA information.
Once online, both the student and parent(s) need to first establish a FSA ID in order to begin the process (the student will have their own ID and a parent will have their own ID number as well). Each FSA ID can be obtained by visiting the FAFSA site and following the instructions carefully. Once receiving the FSA IS, it should be kept confidential and used to access federal student aid online documents, including the FAFSA and future loan documents, if applicable. After establishing the FSA ID, one should then proceed to the www.fafsa.ed.gov site and begin the FAFSA, being careful to accurately answer all questions. After finishing the FAFSA, print the CONFIRMATION if possible, or at a minimum make note of the confirmation number and date that the FAFSA was filed. After filing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which should be reviewed carefully. Corrections to the FAFSA data can be made on the SAR. More information on the Student Aid Report (SAR) can be found by clicking this link.
Things to Know When Completing the FAFSA
Following are some important FAFSA TIPS to remember:
The FAFSA needs to be completed each and every year that a student wants financial aid.
The FAFSA is in the name of the STUDENT as it is their application for financial assistance.
The majority of financial aid program eligibility is determined via the FAFSA. Every student should complete the FAFSA each year.
Other helpful articles related to the financial aid application process include:
Sources of Financial Aid
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
CSS Profile Form
Financial Aid Application MYTHS
Financial Aid Estimator FAFSA4caster Tool
Student Aid Report (SAR)
Financial Aid Sense
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