Make a Resolution to Complete Your FAFSA Early
For many college-bound students, obtaining financial aid is essential for affording education costs. You have likely heard that it is important to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. However many do not understand why this is so important.
Filing the FAFSA will determine your eligibility for federal, state and in some cases, institutional aid. Financial Aid refers to grants and scholarships, student loans and work-study. It is important to file your FAFSA early as some forms financial aid is limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
Here are some tips to help you complete you FAFSA quickly and stress free.
Come Prepared. FAFSA completion will go much quicker if you have the following items:
- Social Security Number
- Parent’s Social Security Number
- Driver’s license number (if you have one)
- Alien Registration Number (if you are not a citizen)
- Federal tax returns, including W-2 information for you and your parents (or the most recent taxes if you haven’t filed yet)
- Records of untaxed income received the previous year for you and your parents
- Current bank statements and investments records for you and your parents
- Business and farm records
- A list of schools you are interested in attending
- A PIN for you and a PIN for you parent in order to sign you FAFSA electronically
File the FAFSA no matter your financial situation. Even if you do not think you will qualify for need-based financial aid, you should still file the FAFSA. Many colleges require that you file the FAFSA to be considered for institutional aid. In addition, you are required to complete a FAFSA to be eligible for federal Stafford loans and completing the FAFSA does not obligate you to accept any of the aid offered.
Never pay to file the FAFSA. You can file the FAFSA for free at www.fafsa.gov. Reputable resources, including Iowa College Aid, are available to help you for free.
Electronically access the FAFSA. Beginning May 10, 2015, a new login process replaced the FAFSA PIN as the process by which students, parents and borrowers authenticate their identities to access student- and borrower-based websites, including the FAFSA. The new FSA ID will comprise of a username and password. Users who have not already done so, will be directed to a link to register for a new FSA ID upon arriving at the www.fafsa.gov website. The registration process should take less than seven minutes.
Meet state and college deadlines. In Iowa, several state financial aid programs have priority FAFSA filing deadlines as early as March 1. Keep in mind, most colleges and universities have their own FAFSA filing deadlines. Students should check with their college of choice to determine its priority deadline for financial aid and if additional documentation is required.
Double check information to avoid delays. Review your FAFSA information before you submit it for processing. Make sure the student’s Social Security number and the parent’s Social Security number are typed in the correct spaces. Mix-ups like these will cause processing delays.
It's easier than ever! One of the newest enhancements, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, allows applicants to automatically transfer the required tax information to the FAFSA, which saves time and reduces applicant error. The tax data should be available within 1-2 weeks of electronically filing taxes and then the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used to make a FASFA correction, streamlining the completion of the FAFSA.
Check your email. If you provide an email address when you complete the FAFSA, a link to view your results will be sent to that email within 3-5 days. Make sure to check your email regularly for your results.
Following these tips will make filing the FAFSA a relatively quick and painless process! Once the student’s FAFSA has been processed, each school they applied to will send a financial aid award package. Each will include the amount of scholarships, grants and loans the student qualifies for at the respective institution for the term indicated. Compare these award letters to make an informed decision on continuing your education.