6 Quick Tips for Filling Out Your Online FAFSA Application
Posted By Staff Writer on March 8, 2018
It’s likely that you have free money due to you as a college student, but before you can get it rewarded, you have to apply for it from the U.S. government. This is done online before your school term begins so you’ll have the funds to pay for your tuition, fees, and books. Although the process is relatively straightforward, it can be a little daunting when it comes time to fill out and submit your online FAFSA application. However, there is no need to be overwhelmed because here are six easy steps to getting the money you need to succeed!
1- Create Your Account and Receive an FSA IDAn FSA ID is your username and password. You need this in order to sign and submit your application to the U.S. Department of Education websites (fafsa.gov, studentaid.gov/login, nslds.ed.gov, studentloans.gov). You create your FSA ID by entering and submitting your login info (email address and password) and personal information. Don’t make these common mistakes:
- Not using your FSA ID to start the FSA Form
- Using a parent FSA ID instead of a student FSA ID
- Getting locked out of your account with three unsuccessful login attempts
2- Start Filling Out the FAFSA Form as Soon as PossibleEven if your state and school financial aid deadlines aren’t looming, you should complete this step immediately. Sometimes funds run out, and the early bird gets the worm. Remember, this form needs to be filled out every year. After you log in, create a Save Key which allows you to save an incomplete FAFSA form and return to it later. Make sure you fill out your name, date of birth, etc. exactly as it appears on your Social Security card and be sure to fill out the Student Demographic Information with the student’s personal information. Don’t make these common mistakes:
- Not getting an FSA ID before you start filling out the FAFSA form
- Signing in under a parent FSA ID rather than a student FSA ID
- Not choosing to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form if given the option. Doing so automatically fills in much of the information for you, saving time.
3- Answer the Dependency Status Questions and Fill Out the Parent Demographics SectionSometimes, you may still be considered a dependent to your parents, even if you support yourself, live on your own, and file taxes in your name. If the FAFSA review process determines that you are independent, you can skip the Parent Demographic section. If you are determined to be dependent, you will need to provide your parent’s basic demographic information. Don’t make these common mistakes:
- Assuming you are either independent or dependent without fully and honestly answering the questions
- Not providing information because you don’t know it, and not indicating whether you have special circumstances. If your parents are divorced, incarcerated, or don’t have citizenship status, this does not affect your eligibility for federal student aid (it doesn’t even ask).
- Not including yourself in the question regarding the number of your family members attending college
4- Supply Your Financial InformationThis step is simple when you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to import your IRS tax information quickly. You will also need to know the net worth of your investments and the amount of taxable college grants and scholarships that were reported to the IRS as income. Don’t make these common mistakes:
- Failing to manually enter any answer that is not automatically populated
- Entering the amount of income tax withheld, rather than your assessed income tax liability
- Incorrectly referencing the wrong tax line numbers
5- List Every School You Are ConsideringEven if you haven’t applied or been accepted, list every school you’re considering attending. Doing so will send your FAFSA information to each one of them, giving you more options down the road. Don’t make this common mistake:
- Not knowing if your state requires you to list your schools in a specific order.
6- Sign and Submit Your FormSign your completed FAFSA form with your student FSA ID for fast processing. Check your status immediately. Don’t make this common mistake:
- Forgetting to click submit