It's October! This means that it's time to get spooky, but also time to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. If you aren't sure what FAFSA is, it is basically the system that provides financial aid for students. It must be filled out for every academic year and the deadlines vary from school to school, but the earlier it gets done, the better. The FAFSA application helps determine how much financial aid you get from your school, this includes scholarships, grants, work study and other aids. Since there is so much riding on filling out your FAFSA accurately, here is a guide and some tips to help ease the process and have it be less intimidating!
1. Create your FAFSA ID.
First thing's first, create a FSA ID. This is the account you will be using to view your financial awards, edit your awards and to reapply every year.
2. Gather the documents needed to verify your identity and financial situation:
Ask your parents for these necessary forms! You WILL need them to complete FAFSA and it is CRUCIAL that the information you give is accurate:
- Your Social Security number
- Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
- Your driver’s license number (if applicable)
- Your Alien Registration number (for non U.S. citizen)
- Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information; IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ; foreign tax return (if applicable); tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau (if applicable).
- Records of your untaxed income for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
- Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments (stocks and bonds), and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
3. Fill out the application as soon as possible.
Please do not wait until the last minute to fill out your FAFSA application. Before you know it, you'll be sitting on your bed at 11:50 p.m., watching Bob's Burgers and suddenly realizing your FAFSA application is due in 10 minutes. The stress of filling out the forms before the clock strikes midnight is stress that you don't need! Always check due dates for FAFSA and make sure you get it done as soon as possible.
4. Fill out the application with your parents, if possible.
Definitely try to fill out the FAFSA with your parents! Your parents will understand which forms are for what and can also help guide you along the way. If your parents aren't available or did not attend college themselves, try reaching out to other family members like older siblings or cousins who have gone through the FAFSA application before.
5. Reread and recheck information before going to the next page.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure all the information you provide is correct! FAFSA is very crucial in making college a little less expensive and every single bit counts. Misinformation can lead to losing thousands of dollars of aid. So please, I beg you, check the information before moving on.
6. Have strong internet connection and make sure you save each page before moving on.
Having your application freeze is one of the worst feelings in the world. Make sure you have strong internet connection and save the page before moving on! Getting your FAFSA done without interruption will take a lot of stress and anxiety off your mind.
7. Ask for help!
FAFSA is sometimes confusing and difficult to navigate. However, as you fill out the forms, there will be "Help and Hints" buttons along the sides of the page. There is also a "Need Help?" button at the end of each page. The FAFSA website also provides you with the option to live chat with one of their representatives. On the other hand, if you aren't comfortable getting information online, always write down your questions and ask your school counselors or call your college's financial aid office for help! If you need more help or have more questions, FAFSA offers this beautiful guide that takes you through each question, step by step!
FAFSA APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN NOW! Best of luck filling out your FAFSA!
Lead Image Credits: Pexels