Filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is never going to be something that you have a great time doing. It’s just not something you’d ever be excited about, but it’s also not as big of a pain as most people think. This is one of the most important pre-college checkboxes that needs taken care of, plus filling out the free application usually only takes around 30 minutes.
Most of the process is basically the same as it has been in the past. The biggest change to this year’s FAFSA process is the date on which you can apply. This year’s opening date is much earlier than normal. You can now begin applying for FAFSA on Oct. 1. This allows students to get their FAFSA accepted and go through the process of applying for scholarships earlier, without as many speed bumps.
To get started, go to the Federal Student Aid website. This is where you can begin the process of filling out the FAFSA. You can make life much easier for yourself if you have the required documents and information all ready to go before you even start. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need:
- Your Social Security number (be sure to enter it correctly on the FAFSA)
- 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:
o IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ
o Foreign tax return and/or
o 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 non-education 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
Try and keep these documents and information somewhat handy for the future. You may want to or have to reapply in the future, and gathering all that up can be a pain.
Once you start the process, you’ll have to provide some basic personal information such as your Social Security number. Here soon, you should create a ‘save key’.
This is very useful because it allows you to start the process of applying, log out, and then be able to start up at the same point sometime later. Depending on whether your parents also have to provide information for your FAFSA, this ‘save key’ is very useful when you and your parents are filling out the application in different places.
You’ll also have to list your top choices of schools that your FAFSA information will be sent to. There is a limit of 10, and no real benefit for not listing as many as you can. Colleges cannot see the other schools that you list, so you might as well widen your list of schools to 10 for this application.
Basically, the rest of the process is filling out yours and your parents’ financial information. This shouldn’t be too much of a hassle since you should already have this on hand if you’ve gathered the list of documents from above.
The rest of the process is pretty straight forward, but if you are having problems, here is a list of resources that you can use to help solve your issues. To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need to sign and submit the application at the end. If you sign with your FSA ID (username and password), you can ensure that your FAFSA will be processed as quickly as possible.
Also remember that the opening date for applying for FAFSA has been moved back to Oct. 1. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible!
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