Students, you might want to invite your parents over to the computer right about now, because this post is for both of you. Well, it’s primarily for your parents, who are probably majorly concerned about how they’re going to pay your college tuition. So get your parents over here, because we want to help everyone understand the process a little better.
One of the most overwhelming aspects of the college funding process is filling out the FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA determines both local and federal loan awards. It’s used for pretty much all financial aid awards in college. So as you can see, it’s super important to the college funding process.
Here, we’ve put together a basic guide to the FAFSA. It answers the most common questions about this critical document. Here’s what you need to know:
- You can find the FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov. We strongly recommend you fill out the application online. The website will immediately alert you about any errors before you submit. Online applications are also received and evaluated sooner. If you really need a paper copy, you can get it on the FAFSA website.
- These are the documents you need available before you fill out the FAFSA:
- Student’s Social Security card
- Student’s driver’s license (if the student has one)
- Parents’ W-2 forms from the previous year, as well as other income records
- Parent/student Federal Income Tax Return for previous year
- Parent/student current bank statements
- Parent/student investment records, if any
- Alien registration or permanent resident card (if not a U.S. citizen)
- If the parents are divorced, the parent who provides the greatest amount of financial support (or who the student lives with the majority of the time) should fill out the FAFSA.
- There are other kinds of family arrangements that might require other information. You can find this out on the FAFSA website.
Here are the SEVEN STEPS to completing the FAFSA:
- ONE: Fill out Student Information includes contact information, birth date, driver’s license numbers, Social Security number, and family information
- TWO: Student Financial Information includes tax information and any earnings
- THREE: Dependency Status includes age, marital status, school level, military service, children, living situation
- FOUR: Parent Information includes legal name, marital status, Social Security Number, household information, etc.
- FIVE: Student Household, (this is only needed if the student is not a dependent.)
- SIX: List the Colleges that you need the FAFSA information sent to
- SEVEN: Sign the document, either on paper or using your Federal PIN (get your PIN at pin.ed.gov.)
The FAFSA is fairly straightforward, but it’s easy to make mistakes. To avoid mistakes:
- Go over your information with a fine-toothed comb.
- Answer every question totally honestly.
- If you estimate your tax information, make sure you update this information when you formally submit your taxes.
- Don’t mix up the student information with the parent information! Pay attention to what section you’re filling out.
- Don’t leave any answers blank. Write in the number 0 or “not applicable.” Never leave an answer blank! Put 0 or ‘not applicable’ instead.
For more specific information and assistance, go to the FAFSA website. As long as you’re careful and organized, you’ll get through the FAFSA just fine.