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What You Need to Know About Completing the FAFSA

If you’re a student or the parent of a student about to enter college, you’ve probably heard of the FAFSA. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the key to receiving any form of federal aid to help pay for the next school year.

Most students who are enrolled or plan to enroll in two- and four-year colleges, graduate schools, professional schools and most vocational and technical schools are eligible to receive federal aid.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about the FAFSA:

Is the FAFSA Free?

Yes, The FAFSA is free. You can complete the application yourself and don’t need to pay anyone to do it for you. It is available online, in PDF form, and in paper form.

Where can I apply for FAFSA?

Most people complete it online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Do I need to submit a FAFSA application Every Year?

Yes. You will need to submit a new FAFSA application before the start of each academic year in which you want to receive federal aid.

Is the FAFSA required?

Completing the FAFSA is necessary to receive any form of federal aid, including:

  • Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
  • Perkins Loans
  • Stafford Loans
  • PLUS Loans
  • Federal Work-Study Jobs

Your state will also use your FAFSA application to calculate your eligibility for:

  • State-Funded Grants
  • State-Funded Scholarships</li

Many colleges and universities will use your FAFSA application to determine who they will award:

  • Institutional Merit-Based Financial Aid
  • Institutional Need-Based Financial Aid

In short, completing a FAFSA is a necessary—and potentially highly beneficial—step to take when applying to colleges. In fact, you qualify for a $1,000 College Board Opportunity Scholarship just by completing and submitting your FAFSA.

The process of completing the application can seem daunting, so it’s best to prepare and make sure you give yourself enough time to gather the required information before the deadlines hit.

When is the FAFSA due?

Federal deadline: June 30 is the final day to apply for federal aid for the 2020-2021 academic year.
State deadline: Check your state’s FAFSA deadline here.
College deadline: These deadlines vary by school, so check your school’s website or contact the financial aid office to learn their cutoff date for applications.

 

The Financial and Other Information Required to Complete the FAFSA

Before you get started, you and your parents will both need to create separate FSA IDs. These IDs should link to your unique email addresses and phone numbers. If you plan to apply for financial aid every year that you’re in school, you will need these FSA IDs, so make sure to keep track of them.

You can create your FSA IDs here.

Filling out the FAFSA requires you to come prepared. Make sure you have these documents on hand before you get started:
If you are a U.S. citizen, you will need your:

  • Social Security card or number
  • Driver’s license (if you have one)
  • Previous year’s federal income tax return (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Previous year’s W2 form (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Statements from bank accounts in your name (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Records of any untaxed income from the previous year (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Parents’ investment records and other business records (if a dependent)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need your:

  • Driver’s license (if you have one)
  • Previous year’s federal income tax return (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Previous year’s W2 form (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Statements from bank accounts in your name (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Records of any untaxed income from the previous year (plus your parents’ if a dependent)
  • Parents’ investment records and other business records (if a dependent)

Because federal aid is need-based, the FAFSA requires financial information from you (if you’ve ever filed taxes) and your parents (if you are a dependent).

The web-based FAFSA makes this process relatively simple with their IRS Data Retrieval Tool, or DRT. The IRS DRT will allow you to import your tax information from the IRS and into the FAFSA form in a handful of clicks. Using this tool will save you time and cut down on the amount of paperwork you need to keep track of, so using it is highly recommended.

Keep in mind that if your family’s financial or marital situation has changed since filing taxes, you should still complete the FAFSA as required, then contact the school or schools you plan to attend and discuss your situation with the financial aid office.

 

You’re Ready to Get Started!

Don’t let the FAFSA intimidate you into not completing it. When you break the application down into easily digestible parts, the process becomes much easier. In the interest of keeping it simple, here’s an overview of what you need to do to get started:

  • Create your FSA ID.
  • Complete the FAFSA every year that you want to apply for financial aid.
  • Gather the necessary documentation.
  • Meet the deadlines.

Good luck! And don’t be afraid to use other resources and ask for help if you get stuck!



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