- College applications are coming due, but remember how you plan to pay for your education.
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, can help you find grants and loans.
- Be sure to fill it out and submit it for the best chance of getting the most money.
Most college applications come due, but don’t forget your free application for federal student aid, which can help you find money to pay for your education.
The free app, also known as FAFSA, makes it easy for students to access the largest source of financial aid for colleges or vocational schools. Students complete the form to apply for federal student aid, such as federal scholarships, co-ops, and loans. Many states and colleges and some private financial aid providers also use FAFSA information to determine if you qualify for their aid.
According to Discover Student Loans’ annual survey of 1,000 parents, released in September, half of parents of college-going children say price is the biggest influence on their school choice. child. And with the highest inflation in a generation this year, 58% of parents said they weren’t considering applying for federal help, but changed their minds. More than half (53%) said they could not afford to pay for their child’s school fees as much as they had planned.
When is the FAFSA due?
FAFSA is available on October 1 each year, but there are many submission deadlines.
Many states and colleges set priority deadlines by which you must submit the FAFSA form to be considered for the aid programs they administer.
You can check state deadlines or who to contact to find out here.
For individual college deadlines, check the school’s website or contact its financial aid office. School deadlines are usually at the beginning of the year, often in February or March. .
Make sure you know the school’s definition of an application deadline: is it the date your FAFSA form is processed or the date the college receives your processed FAFSA data?
The federal deadline is June 30 at 11:59 p.m. CT. Any corrections or updates you need to make after submitting the application must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on September 9. Five states – Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, New Hampshire – require high school students to complete the FAFSA upon graduation to ensure they don’t leave money on the table.
Point: Even if FAFSA deadlines seem a long way off, submit your application as soon as possible, even if you’re not sure about going to school, for the best chance of getting the most money. Some states and schools have limited funds, and these are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
What do I need to complete the application?
Your personal and financial information and, depending on your nationality and other circumstances, some of the following information:
- Social Security number
- Parents’ social security numbers, if you are a dependent student
- Driver’s license number, if you have one
- Alien registration number, if you are not a US citizen
- Federal tax information, tax documents or tax returns, including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if married) and your parents, if you are a student dependent:
- IRS Form 1040
- Foreign tax return or IRS Form 1040-NR
- Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
- Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and non-educational veterans’ benefits, for you and your parents, if you are a student dependent
- Species information; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks, bonds and real estate (but not the house you live in); and business and agricultural assets for you and your parents, if you are a dependent student
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Where can I find the application to fill out and submit?
There are three ways to file your FAFSA:
- The best way is to go to the FAFSA website and create an FSA ID (account username and password combination), if you don’t already have one, or log in to apply online if you have one. An FSA ID is recommended because it gives you access to certain information online and allows you to sign your FAFSA form and promissory notes electronically.
Tips: Towards the beginning of the FAFSA application, you will create a “backup key”, a temporary password that you will use if you start your FAFSA form, then save it to complete it later. Students and parents can use this feature to access the FAFSA form if they complete the application in separate locations. (Unlike the FSA ID, which must be kept private, you can tell your parents your backup key.)
Also, if you are applying for a summer session, contact the college financial aid office to find out which school year you should select when completing your FAFSA form.
- You can also complete a FAFSA PDF, but you will need to print it out and send it for processing.
- Or you can request a printout of the FAFSA PDF by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243); then complete the form and mail it for processing.
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How does the school I apply to get my request for help?
You will list at least one school (and up to 10 online or four on a FAFSA PDF) on your form to receive your information. Use the federal school code search to find the colleges you want to include on your FAFSA form. The schools you list on the application will automatically receive your FAFSA electronically. If you are using the FAFSA PDF, you can add more schools to your form later.
For federal student aid purposes, the order of schools for your list of colleges does not matter. However, some states require you to list schools in a particular order, so check to see if your state has a requirement.
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What happens after I sign and submit my application?
You can track your application online by logging into your online account with your FSA ID or by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
A school may also have other forms to complete in order for you to be considered for school aid, so check with the school’s financial aid office.
Shortly after submitting your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which you must verify for accuracy and make any corrections or updates by 11:59 p.m. CT on September 9.
The SAR may also indicate that you have been selected for verification, which means your school will request additional documents by the school’s deadline that support the information you have reported.
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How do I know the amount of aid I receive?
The school you listed will calculate your aid and send you an electronic or paper aid offer, sometimes called an award letter. Aid offers may arrive as early as winter (fall award) or as late as immediately before you start school, depending on when you apply and how the school schedules award offers.
When you get the offers, understand what is on offer. For example, is it free money like a grant or scholarship, or is it a loan that you will have to repay?
Next, decide what help you need, then respond to the school’s offer of help before the school deadline.
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How is the aid paid out?
Once you have accepted aid, your school will tell you how and when your aid will be distributed and if you need to complete any other paperwork or meet any other requirements. For example, if you are receiving a federal student loan for the first time, you will need to sign a promissory note or contract stating that you will repay the loan and go through an entry board.
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What if I need help during any part of this process?
Try going to the Federal Student Aid help page for answers.
If you can’t find answers, you can also contact someone via email, phone, or live chat.
Medora Lee is a money, markets and personal finance reporter at USA TODAY. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for our free Daily Money newsletter for personal finance tips and business news Monday through Friday mornings.
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