It is that time of year again…time to fill out your FAFSA. I suggest your goal be to get this done the first week of January as it comes available to you January 1, 2016. I know for many of you, this has been on your to-do list, and now you can finally do it. Gather all the information you need about both parent and student, and get started. This includes all social security cards, most recent tax returns, most recent W-2, bank statements, student drivers license, and any investment and untaxed income records.
The first step you will want to do is create a Federal Student Aid ID. This is explained to you step by step following this link, http://www.ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/attachments/050415FSAIDReplaceHowToCreateFSAIDGuideATTACH.pdf
A few general tips when completing your FAFSA.
- Don’t wait until your taxes are completed and returned, to file your FAFSA. Instead, using last year’s taxes and information, you will estimate 2015 until you are able to update any changes. You can submit your FAFSA using last year’s taxes while you wait until your more accurate 2015 taxes are complete. Simply go back to your FAFSA and make the changes you need to make.
- Note: After this 2016 FAFSA, opening on 1/1/2016, the FAFSA open date is changing to 10/1. So, the FAFSA for the following school year will open 10/1/2016 for the 2017-2018 school year and will use actual tax information from 2015. So, for 2 years in a row 2015 tax information will be used.
- Students should not be filing their FAFSA by themselves. There is a lot of tax information that can easily be completed online but parents should be present to assist. Many parents fill out the FAFSA for their children.
- Each school has its own deadline for when the FAFSA has to be completed. By completing the FAFSA the first few weeks of January, you don’t need to worry about those different deadlines. You never want to miss a FAFSA deadline and by doing it early, you won’t!
- This is the last year that the FAFSA will ask you to list the schools that you want your financial information to go to, and that list be made public to all of those schools listed. To make sure you are not going to be penalized by the order you put those schools on your list, simply alphabetize the schools. This why, no school is making an assumption of what your number one school is and then basing decisions on that (yes, schools have admitted to doing this).
- Double check social security numbers for students. This is vitally important to get correct on the FAFSA.
- Do not use any other website except https://fafsa.ed.gov to complete your FAFSA. There are bogus website out there that will convince you to use their services…don’t!
- Lastly, use the information provided by the Federal Government, to assist you with the FAFSA. Here are several helpful documents that walk you through the steps:
Once you complete your FAFSA and submit it, it will take between 3-5 days to process. Once it is processed you will receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (known as SAR). This email will let you know if there are any issues that need to be taken care of and also include a short summary of your application. If everything is completed and there are no issues, you SAR will also show your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Your EFC is used to calculate your financial aid eligibility at each school you have on your list.
Good luck and get to work! The finish line is in site!!