Money for School in 30 Minutes or Less
Your 30 Minute Guide to the FAFSA
Courtesy of: www.militaryonlineeducation.org
Get the most out of your financial aid with this easy 30 minute guide to the FAFSA. Do not let yourself get lost in the process!
What this 30 Minute FAFSA Guide Provides
- What is the FAFSA?
- Getting Started
“FAFSA” is not just a fun word to say – it is an acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
FAFSA is your gateway to financial aid for higher education.
You will need to submit a FAFSA to receive three basic types of financial assistance to pay for school.
- Grants – Free money that you do not need to pay back
- Scholarships – Free money issued by private sources such as companies and community programs
- Student Loans – Money that will need to be paid back, but offers low interest rates and special repayment guidelines unlike a traditional loan
The FAFSA is FREE.
As it states in the name: FREE Application for Federal Student Aid
- No one should charge you a fee to help you fill out the FAFSA.
- Schools have advisors and financial aid officers that can help you complete the FAFSA if you need assistance.
Before you start your application, you need to determine if you are considered a Dependent or Independent student.
You may be considered Independent if you meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You were born before January 1, 1988
- You are married
- You will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program
- You currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces
- Are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
- Have children
- You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you
- You were in foster care or a dependent/ ward of the court
- You are an emancipated minor as recognized by your state of residence
- If you are or have been considered an unaccompanied minor or homeless youth
If you do NOT meet one of the above criteria you may be considered Dependent.
- If you have questions about your dependency status, feel free to contact a financial aid officer at the institution you wish to attend.
Before you get started with your application, there are a few documents that you will need to prepare.
- Tax Returns for the Previous Year
(e.g., for the 2011 – 2012 school year you need your 2010 tax return)
- Your TAX return
- Your parents’ tax return (dependent students only)
- W2sfrom all places of employment for:
- Your spouse
- Your parents (dependent students only)
- Social Security Benefits, Unemployment, or Workers’ Compensation
- If you are receiving any money from Social Security, Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation, you may be asked to provide this information on your FAFSA.
- You may also be asked to provide a printed statement for any of these benefits.
- Getting your documents prepared in advance can save you time.
- Proof of non-filer
- If you did not file taxes, you may need to submit proof.
- Submit IRS form 4506-T to obtain a tax transcript that shows you did not need to file taxes.
Additional Items that May be Requested
Depending on your particular situation, you may be asked to refer to or submit additional documents. The best thing you can do is be ready, just in case.
- Proof of permanent residency or citizenship– be prepared to submit any of the following:
- Birth certificate
- Permanent resident card
- Naturalization papers
- Dependency documents– you may need to submit documentation to show that you are independent based on one of the following:
- You were in foster care or a dependent/ ward of the court, or
- You are an emancipated minor as recognized by your state, or
- If you are or have been considered homeless youth.
What is a PIN
- A FAFSA PIN is a Personal Identification Number.
- You need a PIN when you apply for FAFSA.
- Your PIN will help you track your application.
How to Obtain a PIN
- You need to obtain a PIN from the Department of Education before you submit the FAFSA.
- Obtain a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov
- You will be able to choose how you will receive your PIN; you can view it immediately, have it emailed, or sent in the mail.
- All you need is your Social Security number, date of birth, and email address.
- Obtaining your FAFSA PIN is FREE!
Replacing a Lost PIN
- If you misplace your FAFSA PIN, you will need to request a duplicate.
- You can request a duplicate online.
- The process is very similar to the initial PIN request.
Do NOT miss your opportunity – the earlier the better!
- Federal Grants: June 30th
- Applications are processed in the order that they are received, so the earlier you apply, the better.
- Submitting your application early may help you obtain additional funds from your state government or school.
- State Grants
- States typically have grants – free money that you will not need to pay back – available to students who need them.
- By applying early, you have a better chance of receiving those grants before the funds are depleted.
- Note: Private institutions and/ or online institutions may not be eligible to provide state grants – check with your institution for more information.
- Check the Financial Aid deadlines for your state at: www.fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm
- School Funds and Other Options
- Schools may have additional funding options that may include grants or payment plans.
- Call the school(s) you plan to attend to find out more about their financial options.
Submitting information to the school
Many schools require that you submit a short application directly to them after you submit your FAFSA. Each school may have a different priority deadline, and it is best to check with your school to find out.
- Know Your Date!
- Submitting your application by a school’s priority deadline increases your chances of having your application processed well before school starts.
- Each school will have a specific deadline – call the financial aid office at your school of choice to find out.
Filling out the FAFSA early is a great way to get ahead when you are applying to colleges and schools. Make sure you get it right the first time by avoiding these 5 common FAFSA mistakes.
- 1. Procrastinating
- Waiting too long may mean that you have to pay for school upfront.
- Money is often awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, so the sooner you get your application in, the better chance you have of getting the maximum amount for which you may be eligible.
- The new FAFSA application is available on January 1st every year.
- 2. Not Communicating With Your school
- Many schools have additional steps that you need to take before they can determine how much financial aid you are entitled.
- Make sure you contact the school as soon as you submit your FAFSA to find out what you need to do next.
- 3. Lack of Preparation
- Be prepared – make sure you have all your documents in order and in a safe place prior to submitting your application.
- 4. No Follow-Through
- After you submit your application, you must check your email or snail mail box for important information.
- Make sure to check your junk email often!
- If you are asked for additional information, make sure to submit the required information immediately.
- Make a reminder in your cell phone so you don’t forget.
- 5. Losing Access
- Make sure to keep track of your PIN and other passwords provided through your application process.
- Losing your login information can cost you time and maybe money if it causes a delay.
- Make sure you have an email address that you can access and check regularly.
The FAFSA is a very important application that allows you to obtain assistance for school.
This application determines if you are eligible to receive financial aid and how much you are entitled, so the information you provide is critical.
Mistakes or inaccurate information can impact processing time and/or the type of assistance you receive. Play it safe and be careful.
- 1. Do Not Provide Inaccurate Information
- You will be given an opportunity to submit your FAFSA prior to filing your tax return – this is not recommended.
- Overestimating or underestimating your tax information can cause a delay and possibly affect your financial aid award.
- Make sure you provide the correct social security number, date of birth, and demographic information.
- 2. Do Not Submit Incomplete Information
- Make sure that all parts of the application are complete as any missing information may cause a delay.
- Before you submit your application, you will have an opportunity to review it. Make sure that there are no unanswered questions.
- The FAFSA online process also runs a check and highlights anything that may be missing.
- 3. Do Not Leave Off Schools
- Include as many of the schools which you are seriously considering.
- It is much easier to include the schools you think are going to attend rather than adding them after you are accepted.
- 4. Do NOT Skip the Parent Information Section
- If you are considered a Dependent student, make sure you complete the section on parent information.
- 5. Do Not Count GI Bill Benefits as Income
- When you are declaring your income on the application, you will be asked to provide information about additional income – GI Bill Benefits are NOT considered additional income.
- GI Bill benefits are reported as a resource on a separate section of FAFSA.
- Including GI Bill benefits as income can affect your financial aid award.
Get Your School’s Financial Aid Code!
- Each school that accepts the FAFSA and participates in the Federal Student Aid program has a unique school code.
- You can call the school(s) you are considering and ask the financial aid office for their school code.
- You can also do a Federal School Code Search on the FAFSA website.
Your information will be protected.
- Your FAFSA contains very sensitive information and care is taken not to share your information with anyone.
- Your information will only be shared with the schools that you designate.
- Once schools receive your FAFSA information, it is kept confidential.
- Only designated financial aid staff will have access to your information.
- You are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which prohibits any educational institution from sharing information about your personal records without your written consent.
- Even your parents or spouse will not have access to your information without your approval.
Remember, the FAFSA your gateway to the financial assistance that can help you cover all or part of the cost of your higher education. While the process can seem a bit daunting, it is well worth the time.
The Federal Student Aid program made many changes to make the FAFSA process as smooth as possible; all you need to do is apply.
Remember that financial aid staff is available to help you. Connect with schools that are of interest to you by completing the quick online form on the Military Online Education website.
You want to succeed and secure a better future for yourself, so do not hesitate.
Prepare, apply, get ahead – submit your FAFSA today and don’t forget to share!
Find a schoolSearch online! Verify your statusAre Independent or Dependent? Prepare your documentsUse a folder to stay organized. Apply for your PIN: www.pin.ed.govKeep your PIN in a safe place Submit the FAFSA: www.fafsa.ed.govKeep all your documents handy. Check with your school about their processThe financial aid office is best. Check your mail/email for important informationCheck your junk mail! Prepare documents for your schoolKnow the deadline. Submit documents to your schoolRemember to keep copies. Talk with advisor to plan your classesIt is never too early to plan! Check your mail/email for your award letterAward letters let you know how much financial assistance you can receive. Notes:
This checklist was provided to you by: www.militaryonlineeduction.org
Remember to share this checklist with friends – everyone could use a little help!
About the Author:
Marisol Garza is a higher education professional with a passion for helping people find a path that works best for them. Marisol holds a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and a Master of Education degree in Counseling and Guidance, with emphasis in Student Affairs. She has a diverse background in higher education and currently works with high school students who want to start on their path to college early.
 U.S., Federal Student Aid. “Will I Need My Parents’ Information?” 16 Aug. 2011
 U.S., Department of Education. “Federal Student Aid at a Glance.” 17 Aug. 2011 <http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/2008-2009/english/glance.htm>
 U.S., Department of Veteran Affairs. “FAFSA and VA Education Benefits.” 16 Aug. 2011 <http://www.gibill.va.gov/documents/presentations/fafsa_and_va_education_benefits.pdf>
 U.S. Department of Education. “ FERPA General Guidance for Students.” 15 Aug. 2011 <http://ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html>