Here’s What You Should Know Before Completing the FAFSA
- Completing the FAFSA is an essential step towards securing financial aid for your degree.
- Before completing the FAFSA, it is vital to meet specific requirements.
- The FAFSA for the 2022-2023 school year is now available and should be completed as soon as possible to maximize your financial aid.
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an application that measures a prospective student’s eligibility for financial aid from the state or federal government and colleges and universities. The application is free to apply and can be found here.
Once completed, the application returns a student aid report (SAR) to the applicant. The SAR includes a summary of the student's financial information and an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) number, which represents the amount of money the student or student’s family is expected to contribute.
The student aid report will then be forwarded to the school(s) in which the applicant has applied or is currently enrolled. The school(s) will, in turn, offer the student financial aid to help them meet their EFC number.
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Although the application is available in paper and PDF forms, it is best to fill it out online. By completing the application online, the applicant may request an FSA ID, which serves as a secure login to the FAFSA portal. Another benefit to filling out the application online is receiving a student aid report (SAR) sooner.
Who is Eligible for Federal Aid?
United States citizens, nationals, and legal permanent residents are eligible to apply for aid through the FAFSA. In addition, individuals with proper U.S.C.I.S (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) forms, such as refugees, may also be eligible for aid through the FAFSA application.
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Requirements Before Starting Your FAFSA
Before completing your application, make sure to have the following items:
1. A Computer with Internet Access:
Completing the application online is the fastest way to receive your student aid report.
2. An I.D./Driver's license:
When submitting the FAFSA, an I.D. or Driver’s license is needed for identification purposes.
3. Tax Returns:
For dependent students, parental tax returns will be necessary. The IRS data retrieval tool may be used to find your or your parent’s tax information.
4. Social Security Cards:
Social security numbers are required, and unfortunately, any undocumented student that is not eligible for a social security number will not be able to fill out the application.
5. Bank Statements:
Dependent students will submit their parental bank statements, and independent students will submit theirs and their spouses (if married).
6. Investment Statements:
Investment statements are also required as part of the list of assets that your family or parents have.
Essential Things to Know About the FAFSA
My EFC is $0
Having an EFC that is $0 does not mean you’ll be attending college for free. You will receive the maximum amount of government student aid, but, in many cases, that is not enough. Some schools may help finance the costs through grants and scholarships, student loans, private loans, and more to get students as close as they can to the $0 out-of-pocket expense.
If Your Parents are Undocumented
Students who are eligible, but have undocumented parents, can still fill out the FAFSA. A parent’s citizenship status will not affect a student’s eligibility. Parents without a SSN must enter 000-00-0000 when the FAFSA form requests their social security number. Parents should not enter a taxpayer identification number (ITIN), even if they have one. Instead, all non-citizens should enter 000-00-0000, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Education.
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It’s Never Too Early to Apply
The earlier you apply, the better! The FAFSA deadline each year is June 30th, typically weeks before the semester begins. However, many states award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Therefore, to maximize your chances of obtaining as much assistance as possible, it is wise to submit your application as soon as it opens, on October 1st.
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