Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the first steps in seeking a post-secondary education. It is a key first step, because you need to see where you financially stand, in order to learn what aid you may be eligible for. The result of the FAFSA might change the school you choose to attend, since the amount awarded to pay for your education is based on the information you and/or your family provides.
In September 2015, President Obama announced a change to the FAFSA. This change allows all students and families to access the FAFSA as early as October 1. For the 2017-2018 academic year and afterward, all FAFSAs will be available on October 1, instead of three months later on January 1. This allows more time for family financial planning.
Please be aware of your state’s deadline when completing the FAFSA. You may be eligible for additional aid, if you complete it by the state’s date. However, the federal deadline for completion is June 30.
Early submission of your FAFSA will allow you to see exactly how much money you will qualify for, while giving you time to find more financial resources. Please note, all financial aid awards are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, do not wait too long to complete the FAFSA as you may miss out on additional opportunities to secure additional aid.
In order to complete the FAFSA you must have the following:
- Federal Student Aid ID (FSAID), which can be created at fsaid.ed.gov
- Both student (if dependent) and parent need an FSA ID
- Prospective institution’s school code
- Most recent federal tax returns
- If you have completed your 2015 taxes, you can electronically link and auto-fill your tax information by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).
You may complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov. If you’re on any other website besides the FAFSA, it is a third-party servicer; a third-party servicer is when other people fill out your application for a fee. The first word in FAFSA is free, and filling it out is quite simple. So please, don’t pay anyone to fill out your FAFSA for you!
The results of your FAFSA will be provided to each of the schools you apply to and they will inform you of your financial aid eligibility. So, don’t miss out on an opportunity to secure funds for your education.
Jessica Brown, CEO of College Gurl has been helping students, parents, and guardians successfully navigate the seas of financial aid at post-secondary institutions as a financial aid administrator at various universities. She is also the author of How to Pay for College When Your Broke. For more information on College Gurl, please visit www.collegegurl.com or follow College Gurl on Instagram and Twitter @collegegurljb.