Tips on filing the FAFSA
Be Prepared to Complete Your FAFSA
Completing your financial aid application can be quick, easy and painless with just a little bit of preparation on your part. Make sure you have the following information handy: Social Security number, driver’s license number, your federal tax return, your parent’s federal tax return, information on assets and other untaxed information, and the U.S. Department of Education PIN number assigned to you. Having this information at your fingertips allows you to complete the application on the first try, rather than having to save it and add information later. It also means you won’t have to make corrections later to an incorrect or incomplete application, which will get your financial-aid application processed much sooner.
Completing a federal financial aid application doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process. Just visit the U.S. Department of Education website. There you will find links for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As you complete the form, you will be asked a series of questions that determine your financial-aid eligibility. In addition, you can indicate what schools should receive the results of the FAFSA to process any financial aid you may be qualified to receive. The FAFSA for an upcoming academic year is made available on January 1 each year, which gives you the maximum amount of time to complete and meet any school or scholarship deadlines.
Verification of FAFSA Information
Like a tax audit, which is not a fun process, the verification process of your student loan application may occur randomly or because something on your application may be incorrect. First off, don’t panic. The federal government knows that people make errors when entering information, so there are a number of reasons that your application may be flagged for verification. If you made a mistake on your application, just follow the directions provided by your school on how to correct it. In addition, when you are asked to verify information, submit the requested materials as soon as possible to ensure that your financial aid processing isn’t delayed. You may be asked to provide copies of past federal income tax returns, W-2s, or other financial information.
After completing the FAFSA, a Student Aid Report (SAR) is generated based on the information you provided. This information is shared with any college or university you identified on your application as a recipient of your SAR. You will also receive a copy of it within four to six weeks, so that you can review it for errors. Check over everything carefully and correct mistakes immediately. Any errors that you don’t correct could be caught by your university, which slows down the process. The information provided on the SAR includes the total estimated amount that you and your family will have to contribute to the cost of your education. It also will provide information on your eligibility for a Pell grant. When your university has received all of the information on your finances, it will put together a financial aid award package for you.
Save Time, Renew Online
Once you have completed the online federal financial aid process, you will not have to fill out the form again. By using the online application, you save yourself valuable time because much of that information will be transferred to the application for each new year. Any changes that occur since the last time you filled out the application (such as contact information or address) need to be updated along with current information regarding your financial situation. The first time you apply, you use a PIN number to identify who you are. This PIN number stays the same and you can use it each time you renew. If you have Direct Loans, the PIN number will remain the same when you access information during repayment.
Things happen so quickly that you never know what could change between the time you apply for financial aid and when your school processes your financial aid package. If such circumstances are specific to you–such as change of assets, change of financial need, dependency care–contact your school’s financial aid office to request that they review your financial situation based on the special circumstances. Your expected contribution could decrease based on the loss of employment, marriage, birth of a child or death of a parent. Whatever the reason, if you think your circumstances will affect your contribution, contact your financial aid office immediately.
Financial Aid Criteria Includes Student Achievement and Good Grades
The grades you receive throughout your college education can have an impact on your financial aid. Your financial aid office will track your progress to make sure that your grades meet the office’s requirements and that you are making satisfactory progress toward your degree . What is meant by “satisfactory progress” will be determined by your institution. You can easily find out what the requirements are by contacting your financial aid office. If you aren’t meeting the requirements, the office will make first contact with you.