FAFSA Application Tips
Student aid deadlines are looming. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Are looking for a way to help reduce the cost of your tuition? Financial aid can help. There is one form standing in between you and potentially qualifying for financial aid. It’s called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (also known as the FAFSA worksheet). There are multiple avenues of financial aid available. Avenues such as federal and state student-aid programs, institutional aid and federal work study solely exist to help offset student debt. However, in order to access financial aid, the first thing you have to do is fill out a FAFSA application.
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Each calendar year that you are enrolled in courses, you must fill out and submit your FAFSA worksheet. This form helps the government determine the types of tuition assistance you can qualify for, as well as the amount. You will receive this information in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR). Once you’ve received your SAR, you can determine if all of your information was input correctly or if you need to make changes.
The following tips will help get you on your way to filling out your FAFSA correctly and getting that SAR into your hands!
1. Pay Attention to FAFSA Deadlines
Like most applications, there are deadlines. For instance, to qualify for federal aid the FAFSA deadline for 2012 is June 30, 2012; corrections or updates must be submitted by September 21, 2012. One thing to keep in mind – state aid FAFSA application deadline dates may differ slightly from the federal aid deadline date. State deadline dates are located on page 1 of the FAFSA application. Submit your FAFSA early, rather than later. This gives you more time to make corrections, if you need to.
2. Be Prepared, Gather Your Information
Before you can fill out your FAFSA, you will need most of these items (requirements may differ depending on state and/or education institution):
- Find out the Federal School Code for each of the education institutions you are interested in applying to
- Driver’s license number or state ID number
- Social Security number
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, you’ll need your visa or resident alien information readily available
- W-2 or 1099 forms; your previous year’s untaxed income (Social Security, temporary assistance to needy families, welfare, etc.)
- If married or single and are an independent student you’ll need your previous year’s tax return forms (1040, 1040A, 1040EX, 1040 Telefile, etc.)
- If you are a dependent, you’ll need your parents’ previous year’s Federal Income Tax Return information
- Pin number (serves as your electronic signature for FAFSA submission and corrections). You must apply for this as an independent or dependent student; if applying as dependent, you must apply with your parents.
- Bank statements from the previous year (mortgage, loans, stocks, bonds, etc.)
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*Bonus Tip: If you do not have all of your financial information available, you can make estimates. The form can always be amended, this is another reason it’s recommended to submit your FAFSA application as soon as possible.
3. FAFSA Application: How to Get It and Where to File
Now that you’ve gathered your information, you’re probably wondering about where you can get a copy of the FAFSA to fill out and submit.
- Internet – you can submit your FAFSA online application at https://fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/fafsa?locale=en_US); the website will tell you if you are using an unsupported web browser
- Phone – you can request a FAFSA by calling 1-800-433-3243, or if you need TTY assistance call 1-800-730-8913
- Download – PDF form is available at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm; print and fill out manually or utilize the screen-fillable option
When filling out the FAFSA worksheet, remember to use the full name that appears on the student’s government identification information. If you print out the PDF or call the 800 number and request a form to be mailed to you, you will be required to mail in your FAFSA application.
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4. Keep Your Information Handy
Once your SAR arrives, one or more of the education institutions you listed on your FAFSA may request copies of your financial information. This is common, do not panic. When a SAR report is generated a needs analysis, also known as an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), is generated too. The EFC helps the government and education institutions figure out eligibility to receive need-based aid, and it gets you one step closer to paying less for tuition.