It’s that time of the year, where one of the most important issues a student can face rises up once again: Financial Aid. Yes, FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is open and waiting for the students for the upcoming school year to sign up. There may be some students either starting college for the first time or perhaps returning after a long period of time who might be a little unfamiliar with how FAFSA operates. Well, we’re here to make sure that you have everything you need to fill out your FAFSA as accurately as possible.
In order to fill out the FAFSA, you need to make sure that you know your Social Security number. You will also be asked to provide details on your driver’s license — however, it’s okay if you do not have a driver’s license. There is an opt-out option for those who do not have a license and you will just be asked to provide different information. If you are not a US citizen or national, you will need to provide your alien registration card information. If you are a man under the age of twenty five, you must legally be registered with Selective Services and affirm this fact in order to receive financial aid. For everyone who applies for FAFSA, you will need to create a FSA (Federal Student Aid) ID, which will serve as your log into the website, as well as your digital signature. This is not the same as a FAFSA pin number, which is being phased out of the process. If you have not created a FSA ID yet, it is easy.
In order to get financial aid to a specific school you hope to or currently attend, you will need the Institution Codes for each school you are applying to. This is actually the easiest thing to acquire in the FAFSA process because the application has a database that will look up the school if you do not know the code. You can then select the code and it will be automatically placed into the application.
How much you receive in financial aid will depend upon whether you are claimed as a dependent on your parent or guardians’ taxes. This is determined by a set of questions to see if you are a legal dependent student. This is extremely important because if you are claimed as a dependent you must have your parent’s information. If you have been through an unusual circumstance that has removed you from their care that is not simply just moving away, make sure you have the proof.
If you are deemed to be a dependent student, then you must provide information about your parent or parents. They will need to provide the same identifying information to FAFSA that you are required to provide. They will also need to provide their tax information from the year before. If they have not filed their taxes, give an approximation, but be sure to fill out the correct information as soon as it becomes available.
If you have or will file a tax return this past year, you will need to provide the same information your parents provided about taxes. If you are not going to file, you will skip over this section. However, if you have a bank account, know how much money is in there. If you own a business or farm, have investments such as stocks or bonds, or valuable property of any kind, make sure you know how much it is worth. This is critical in evaluating how much aid you will need.
Now that you have what you need, the important thing is to make sure that you get this done as soon as possible. You can technically fill out the FAFSA at anytime, but each state, and even school, has their own deadlines for statewide financial aid. College is expensive so you want to make sure that you get as much financial aid as possible, which means that the sooner you get it done, the more likely you will be able to get the aid you need to get through the school year. Not just that, but with that done and out of the way, you can focus on more important things, such as your classes this semester, without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for the following school year.