The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed by students applying for state, federal, and institutional financial aid. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid, you should still complete the FAFSA to be eligible for student loans. The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.govas soon as possible after January 1st of the year for which you are requesting aid. Here are the steps you should take when preparing to submit the FAFSA.
Find out the FAFSA priority deadline for your college(s). Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it is crucial for you to submit your FAFSA in a timely manner. Many priority deadlines are as early as February. Although priority deadlines do not affect a student’s eligibility for federal student loans, if you don’t file early, you may miss out on possible aid opportunities such as money awarded directly from the institution.
Request a Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you file the FAFSA online, both you and one of your parents (if you are required to submit parental information) will need to register for a PIN number at www.pin.ed.gov. PIN numbers are required to sign the online FAFSA application. You can also use your PIN to:
- Review and correct answers on your electronic Student Aid Report (SAR)
- Electronically sign loan promissory notes
- Reapply for student aid every year you are in school
- View information about federal loans and grants you have received
Register with Selective Service. If you are male and at least 18 years old, you must register with Selective Service before you can submit the FAFSA.
File your taxes. Since the FAFSA requires current tax information, try to file your taxes early. If you can’t, you can still submit the FAFSA using estimated taxes. Just keep in mind that you must update your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool once you file your taxes.
Find your school codes. You will need school codes so your FAFSA information can be sent to the schools to which you want to apply. Schools use your FAFSA info to create your financial aid package. Click here to find school codes.
Complete FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. If you are filing the FAFSA online, be sure to complete the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet so you can organize your information. This worksheet allows you to read and complete the questions before entering your information online. The questions are listed in the same order as they appear on the website.
Attend a financial aid workshop. Be sure to attend a financial aid workshop at your school or in your community to learn more about filling out the FAFSA. Financial aid professionals will be able to answer any questions you have regarding the application.
Gather required forms. You will need the following information when you fill out the FAFSA:
- Student’s driver’s license and Social Security card
- Income tax returns or as close an estimate as possible
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned
- Current bank statements
- Records and documentation of other untaxed income received such as welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran’s benefits, AFDC, or military or clergy allowances
- Records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
- Current mortgage information
- Business or farm records (if applicable)
Know your history. If you filed a FAFSA last year, you can use your PIN number to complete the online Renewal FAFSA. Since many elements of the FAFSA do not change (i.e. your name and date of birth), the online Renewal FAFSA will ask you to confirm last year’s info and provide updated info for other entries such as your grade level.
Most of the above-mentioned steps can be completed before January 1st, which is the earliest you can submit the FAFSA for that upcoming year. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your FAFSA will be filed in a timely manner so you can get as much aid as possible for your financial situation.