Students who hope to utilize federal funds for their college educations will need to begin by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Here, they’ll provide information about their financial health, and the wealth of the family as a whole, and they’ll outline where they plan to go to school. There’s a lot of information involved, and not surprisingly, many students give up on filling out the form before the work is complete. For example, in 2012, 4 percent of high school students started to fill out the form and gave up before they were done, according to the American Institutes for Research. Perhaps, if these students studied up on FAFSA requirements, they’d be less likely to ditch the work before it’s completed.
Typical Records Required
Much of the FAFSA is devoted to information about a student’s identity and citizenship status. As a result, students are required to provide:
- Their Social Security Number
- Their driver’s license number
- Their Alien Registration Number (if the student isn’t a citizen of the United States)
- The Social Security Number of parents (if the student isn’t considered financially independent)
All of this information can help administrators to determine whether or not the student is a resident of the United States, and the information might also be provided to help check on the student’s financial background and history.
In addition to records concerning identity, the FAFSA demands a significant amount of information regarding finances. Much of this information can be pulled from that year’s tax forms, but students should also be prepared to know the balances of their checking accounts, savings accounts, bond accounts, stock market accounts and more, and they’ll need that same information from parents.
Moving Through the Process
By now, most students are at least aware of what a FAFSA is. For example, a report produced by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education found that 64 percent of all Minnesota students enrolled in undergraduate programs applied for aid with a FAFSA. But knowing that the form is out there, and even filling out the form in the past, doesn’t guarantee current success. The form is complicated, and there are some specific tips and tricks students should keep in mind.
For example, the FAFSA requires students to list at least one college they’re considering. Those students who are hoping to change schools, but who haven’t quite decided where they’d like to go, can’t just guess or leave the field blank. They’ll need to put the name of a school here.
Similarly, students are required to go through a series of questions that help them to determine whether or not they’re considered financially independent. These questions can seem intrusive or redundant, particularly for students who have filled out the form in the past, but it’s a vital part of the application process and it can’t be skipped.
It’s also important to remember that the FAFSA must be filled out each and every year. The information isn’t held over from one year to another, and the data a student enters in one year doesn’t impact decisions made in the next. When January rolls around, students simply must fill out the form again.
If you’d like to know more about how you can pay for school, and how filling out a FAFSA might be key to the success of your education, please browse our website. We have a variety of tools that can help you.
- FAFSA Home
- Demystifying the FAFSA
- Exit Counseling
- Filling It Out
- Financial Stability
- How the FAFSA Challenged Us to Find Alternative Funding
- Independent or Dependent Student Status?
- Limited Space for College Listings
- Making Corrections
- Reality Check
- Revising: A Primer for Parents
- That Wasn't So Bad After All
- The Calculations Behind the Application
- To-Do Lists, Anxiety, and Preparing for College
- What Happens Next?
- Why Submit the FAFSA
- Your Gateway to Financial Aid