4 Easy Tips For Filing Your FAFSA
Every year, the federal government spends more than $86 billion to help young people go to college. As the single largest provider of student aid in the world, the US federal government offers grants, fellowships, loans and work study programs.
Your key to this massive treasure chest is the FAFSA, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The application, which can be filled out on paper or on-line, calculates your family’s ability to pay for your college degree. Calculations are based on income, assets and other factors, such as the number of additional dependents in college.
The FAFSA is used not only by the federal government to determine your aid eligibility, but also by your college or university to allocate its own scholarships, plus state and private assistance.
In short, the FAFSA is the most important document you will fill out in your quest for college – second only, perhaps, to the college application form. To maximize your award, follow these four easy tips for filing your FAFSA:
# 1. Be Prepared
Before you even start filling in your FAFSA, make sure you have gathered all the required materials, including:
Social security cards
Income tax returns from the previous tax year
Your spouse’s documents – if you are married; your parents’ documents – if you are a dependent
Current bank, mortgage and investment statements
#2. Beat the (Filing) Buzzer
The FAFSA’s deadline is June 30th, but many schools offer “priority processing deadlines”. In other words, getting in your FAFSA early will qualify you for first-come, first-serve aid through your college. Therefore, aim to return your completed FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st.
#3. Be Pedantic About the Particulars
Double and triple check the accuracy of the information on the FAFSA, because even minor mistakes can cause costly delays. Be on the look out for these common errors:
Use only your legal name
Confirm all social security numbers
Count yourself as one of the members of your household attending college during the award year
If your parents are divorced and remarried, include your step-parents’ income and assets
#4. Go Virtual
Applying on-line is faster – not to mention preferred, by a growing number of colleges and universities. To apply on-line, go to the FAFSA site. In lieu of signing your application, the on-line FAFSA requires a secure, individual PIN number, which you can apply for here.