Here’s How to Get Student Financial Aid
The number one reason people don’t get financial aid is because they don’t apply. Their neighbor, brother-in-law or friend told them not to bother, they make too much money. Financial aid uses a federal methodology to determine your family’s EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION (EFC). They consider income, but they also consider the number of people in the household, how many of those are in college and the age of the oldest parent.
Despite the many articles in the press, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not that difficult. There are varying degrees of difficulty just like your tax returns. The Department of Education has worked hard in the last couple of years to build in skip logic on the electronic form. You may be able to skip whole pages of information (like a 1040EZ) or you may have to answer all one hundred and one questions. In either scenario, there are fewer questions than two years ago.
When you go to www.fafsa.ed.gov you will see that you have three options to fill out your FAFSA: you can do it online, you can complete a PDF form and complete it or you can request a paper FAFSA. You want option 1-file it electronically! Remember, I said there is skip logic? Well skip logic only works on the electronic FAFSA. Besides, the electronic submission is much quicker to process. You may enter multiple colleges that you plan to attend and each college will be able to download you information within days if file electronically. It will be weeks before it is input into the computer if you do it by paper. Ninety-eight percent of applications are electronic. If you don’t have internet access at home, check with a local college or library. There are lots of places you can find a computer to use. If you are nervous about computers, check local colleges, high schools or community centers to see where there is an in person, hands-on FAFSA workshop.
So gather the things you are going to need to complete the FAFSA:
- Your PIN number (your parent will need their PIN)
- Your social security number
- Your parent’s social security number if you are dependant (under 24 years of age)
- Your Driver’s License number if you have one
- Your alien registration number if you are not a US Resident
- Your tax forms if you have already filed your taxes. Your parent’s tax forms if they have filed. If you have not filed, you will need estimated income for the previous year. So if you are applying for Fall 2012, you are completing the 2012-13 FAFSA and you need your 2011 income/tax information.
- UNTAXED income such as Social Security and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- A computer with internet access
Now log on and get started. First question – Last Name. Second question – First name. See it isn’t so bad. Now keep going. If you get to a question that you are unsure of how to answer, there is help on the website or you can call 1-800-CALL 4 FED AID (1-800-433-3243). For TTY assistance (for hearing impaired) you can call 1-800-730-8913. Round dollars, don’t report cents. Answer questions honestly. Remember, this is the government. Information you provide will be cross checked with Selective Service, Social Security, Internal Revenue Service, and Homeland Security.
If you still can’t answer the question, you can save the FAFSA and go back to it when you have the information. If you have filed your taxes the FAFSA application will ask what form you used. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, when you get to question 32 it will give you the option to say I will file OR I won’t file. PLEASE NOTE: The IRS has income thresholds for each category of filers. If your income exceeded the threshold you MUST file before a College Financial Aid Office can process your application.