What Students Need to Know Before Submitting the FAFSA
BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER
Each year, students who forget to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid miss out on thousands of dollars in grants, work-study funds and low-interest loans. With the Feb. 15 priority deadline quickly approaching, now is the time to complete the federal form, if you have not already. But before you begin the application, there are a few things you should know.
1) All college students interested in receiving federal aid must fill out the form.
The FAFSA must be submitted each year you are in school to receive federal aid. It is important to complete the form each school year because your eligibility may have changed since the last time you filled it out. The information provided is also commonly used to determine your eligibility for state and school aid. If you filled out the FAFSA last year, you can select “FAFSA Renewal” after logging in. This option allows the form to be pre-filled out with your nonfinancial information.
2) Completing the FAFSA early improves your chances of getting funds.
Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so filling out the FAFSA as early as possible can help ensure you receive all of the aid you are eligible for. The deadline for Missouri is April 1, but submitting your FAFSA by the Feb. 15 priority deadline ensures you are considered for the most aid possible.
3) You can speed up the process by gathering key information in advance.
First, you need to create an FAFSA ID , a username and password that will be used to log in. The FAFSA ID replaced the use of the Federal Student Aid PIN on May 10 to increase security. However, knowing your PIN number will save you time while creating your new FAFSA ID because entering it will allow you to link to your information.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, “it has the same legal status as a written signature,” so if you are a dependent student, your parent will need to create a separate FSA ID to access your application.
To help you determine whether you are dependent or independent, Federal Student Aid provides questions for you to answer, in both graphic and table formats.
Dependent students need to report parent information. Federal Student Aid’s website can help you find out what to do if you don’t live with your parents, if you don’t have access to their financial information, or if your parents are divorced or separated.
In addition to a FAFSA ID, you will also need some or all of the following: your social security number, your parents’ social security number (if you are a dependent student), alien registration numbers (if you are not a U.S. citizen), your 2015 federal income tax returns, bank statements and records of untaxed income.
After submitting online, it is recommended you save or print the confirmation page, as the emailed confirmation does not contain all of the same information.
You can also check the status of your FAFSA after submitting by logging in and going to the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
4) Federal and campus resources can help you eliminate guesswork.
Remember that there are “Help and Hints” and “Need Help?” sections located on every entry page of the electronic FAFSA application. You can also contact Westminster’s Office of Student Financial Planning, located in Enrollment Services, if you have any questions.
Courtney Gallagher is an intern for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.