5 FAFSA Tips to Get Yours Started
Let's Get Ready to FAFSAAAAAAAAA!
1. To complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be sure to visit the website FAFSA.GOV – (NOT FAFSA.org, .net, etc.)
Those other websites tend to charge a fee to help you. The federal application is called the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. There is really no need to pay for something that is free to complete. There is significant free assistance in completing the FAFSA. Visit FAFSA.GOV to apply. Contact me and I can provide assistance as well as direct you to other resources you may need.
2. Create your FSA ID – User Name and Password
The FSA ID, user name and password, is used by the student to log in as well as sign their online FAFSA application. One parent (even if 2 parents are in the home) also needs to create an FSA ID – User name and password. The parent will use their user name and password to sign their student’s application (as you would if it was paper). Since its online, you are using a user name and password as an electronic signature. Both the parent and the student will need to use their own social security number and different email addresses. For more information, visit www.fsaid.ed.gov
3. The Student is the FAFSA applicant, NOT the parent.
It is not uncommon for a parent, who has done much of the college financial thinking and planning, to sit down at the computer and think that they are the applicant for financial aid. While the whole family is affected and the parents’ income and investment information will be entered on the form along with the students’, it is really the student who is the applicant. Let them take the lead in filling it out and sit alongside them to enter your information as the parent.
4. Get Organized.
The more organized you are about this process, the more you will ease your stress level and minimize potential for errors.
Print Your Tax Forms: I recommend you have a printed out copy of your 2016 Tax forms and your 2016 W-2 forms. It is better to be able to see the numbers as you are entering them into the form. You will not be required to provide any other tax year unless the college advises you to do so.
Use the IRS DRT: You will be able to have your income information transferred directly from the IRS using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) saving you from having to enter tax information in manually. In the Finances Section of the FAFSA form, you will see a button allowing you to “Link to the IRS.” Answer each of the questions asked and click “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA Form.” You will know the information has been transferred when you see the words “Transferred from the IRS” on your FAFSA form. For your protection, the information will not be displayed but will have come directly from your taxes.
Learn the Deadlines of each of the colleges and universities to which the student is interested in attending. The FAFSA should be submitted by the deadline of the colleges of the student’s interest. Meeting the deadline is critical in being awarded funds for which you might be eligible. Determine the earliest deadline then complete the FAFSA by that date. For example, if your student is interested in applying to 5 different colleges, find out the financial aid deadline for each of those colleges and submit the FAFSA by the earliest deadline. This way you will have met the deadline for all 5 of the colleges.
Gather these Documents Each family has a different financial situation and all questions may not apply to every family. However, it will be helpful to gather these documents before you get started. If the document does not apply to your family, do not worry about obtaining it. (“Your” refers to the student.)
Your Social Security number (it’s important that you enter it correctly on the FAFSA form!)
Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
Your driver’s license number if you have one
Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:
IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ
Foreign tax return
Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
5. Take your time
The FAFSA form can be complex but can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. The key is to minimize any potential mistakes and the best way to do that is to take your time. While there are questions that could have different interpretation
and you may not always be able to determine how some questions apply to your family, the real and best strategy to reduce mistakes is to take your time as you type in your answers. I have seen students rush through the form only to find that they transposed numbers or added some information incorrectly. The form allows you to start entering some information, save the form and come back to it later. It also allows you to log back in to make changes or corrections but striving for accuracy in the beginning saves time and aggravation. Give yourselves enough time prior to the financial aid deadlines so that you can take your time, double check your answers and submit it with confidence. Remember, there’s no need to rush.
Following these tips makes for a smooth application process. Contact me with questions or concerns. Click here Contact Candace