If you’re planning to attend college, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial step to receiving financial aid to help pay for tuition, books, and other expenses. However, the FAFSA can be a bit daunting and confusing, especially if you’ve never filled it out before. Because of that, we’ve created this guide to help you through the process.
In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to fill out the FAFSA correctly and on time. We’ll also provide tips for avoiding common mistakes and offer resources to help you if you run into any issues.
Before You Begin
Before you start filling out the FAFSA, you’ll need to gather some information and documents. This includes:
- Your social security number
- Your federal income tax returns for the previous year (or your parents if you’re a dependent student)
W-2 forms and other records of income
- Records of untaxed income, such as veteran’s benefits or child support
- Information on your assets and savings
- Your exact objectives for going to the institutions
To these documents, you’ll also need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This is a unique username and password that you’ll use to log in to the FAFSA website and sign your application. Both you and one of your parents (if you’re a dependent student) will need to create an FSA ID.
Finally, make sure you’re aware of the FAFSA application deadline for your state and the schools you’re interested in attending. Some states and schools have earlier deadlines than others, so it’s important to double-check and submit your application before the deadline.
Filling Out the FAFSA
Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to start filling out the FAFSA. Here are the steps :
- Starting the Application To start the FAFSA application, “Start Here” begin the application process. You’ll be prompted to enter your FSA ID to log in.
- Entering Personal Information The first section of the FAFSA asks for your personal information, including your name, address, and social security number. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need to enter your parents’ information.
- Providing Information about Schools Next, you’ll be asked to enter the schools you’re interested in attending. You can enter up to ten schools, and you should include any schools you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.
- Reporting Financial Information The bulk of the FAFSA application is dedicated to reporting your financial information. This includes information about your income, assets, and any untaxed income you’ve received.
- If you or your parents filed taxes for the previous year, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer your tax information into the FAFSA. This can save you time and reduce the chance of errors. However, if you didn’t file taxes or if you’re not eligible to use the Data Retrieval Tool, you’ll need to manually enter your financial information.
- Signing and Submitting the Application Once you’ve completed all the sections of the FAFSA, you’ll need to sign and submit the application. If you’re a dependent student, both you and one of your parents will need to sign the application.
Tips and Common Mistakes
While filling out the FAFSA can be straightforward, there are some common mistakes to avoid. Here are a few tips to help you complete the application accurately and on time:
- Submit your FAFSA. Many schools and states have limited funds for financial aid, and submitting your FAFSA early can increase your chances of receiving aid.
- Double-check your information before submitting. Make sure you’ve entered all your personal and financial information correctly, and that you’ve included all the schools you’re interested in attending.
- Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if possible. This can save you time and reduce the chance of errors when transferring your tax information to the FAFSA.
- Don’t skip any questions. Even if a question doesn’t apply to you, you still need to answer it or indicate that it doesn’t apply.
- Keep copies of your application and any other supporting documents. This can come in handy if you need to reference your application later or if you’re asked to provide additional information.
- Make sure you’re aware of any additional financial aid applications required by the schools you’re interested in attending. Some schools require additional applications for certain types of aid, so it’s important to stay informed.
If you do run into any issues while filling out the FAFSA, there are resources available to help you. The FAFSA website has a help center where you can find answers to common questions, and you can also reach out to your school’s financial aid office for assistance.
After You Submit
After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via email or postal mail. The SAR summarizes the information you provided on your FAFSA and gives you an estimate of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is used to determine your eligibility for financial aid.
Check your SAR carefully to make sure all of the data is correct. Using your FSA ID, you can edit or amend your data on the FAFSA website.
Once your FAFSA has been processed, you’ll start receiving financial aid award letters from the schools you’re interested in attending. These letters will outline the types and amounts of aid you’re eligible for, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Make sure you carefully review each award letter and compare the total cost of attendance at each school before making a decision.
Filling out the FAFSA may seem like a daunting task, but it’s a crucial step to receiving financial aid for college. By following the steps outlined in this guide and avoiding common mistakes, you can increase your chances of receiving aid and making college more affordable.
Remember to gather all the necessary documents and information before you start, and make sure you’re aware of the FAFSA deadline for your state and the schools you’re interested in attending. If you run into any issues, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. With a little effort and attention to detail, you can complete the FAFSA and take a major step toward achieving your college goals.