Preparing for the FAFSA
Money doesn't grow on trees, so don't forget to apply for FAFSA!
October 25, 2016
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that comes around every year for current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) to apply for student financial aid. Completing the FAFSA can help students earn valuable federal aid for college.
One of the most common struggles high school seniors face with the FAFSA is how to start it and how to prepare for it as a high school student. The FAFSA has had a couple of changes this year, one being that it opened on October 1st instead of on January 1st (hopefully you seniors already got started), and this year, instead of estimating your 2016 taxes, FAFSA is allowing you to apply using your parents 2015 tax returns.
The FAFSA is available in several formats: online, PDF, and paper version. The best way to apply for the FAFSA is the web-version located on the FAFSA website. The website includes step by step instructions on how to complete the online FAFSA, and allows you to list up to ten colleges, so it gives you the option to send more colleges that you wish to attend your FAFSA application, while the paper FAFSA has space for only four colleges.
Senior AVID teacher, Shey Morton said that, “Without the FAFSA you wouldn’t be able to apply to any federal aid or financial aid, the processes is made really simple, and there’s many people on campus who can and are willing to help you, D-Rod in the career center, Ms. Longshore, Counselors and I are all available if anyone has questions about their application. Even if you don’t think you’re going to get financial aid from FAFSA, you might be eligible for other forms of assistance but you have to fill out your FAFSA to find out.”
In the words of Victoria Mesen, a senior AVID student, the FAFSA, “Wasn’t a pain, but I was worried that I would put the wrong information down. The idea of messing up really scares me. The process of filling it out was not long but I just hoped that I didn’t put in the wrong information, AVID helped me out with filling out my application.”
However, before you get to apply for the FAFSA, you need to sign up for your FAFSA ID. The ID is used frequently every time you want to access your FAFSA online. Both parents and students need to have their own FAFSA IDs.
Every student who applies for financial aid with the FAFSA will either be considered a dependent or an independent student. The reason this is important is that a student’s dependency status can change the financial aid award package significantly. The difference between dependent and independent students, is that an independent student is a student that has a child, is married, currently serving on active duty for other than training purposes, and/ or is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. A dependent student is a student who was NOT born before January 1, 1994 and is not married. A dependent student reports their parent(s) income as well as their own (if any).
Filling out the FAFSA will become much easier if you already have everything together before starting the process. Some things you need to have when applying for the FAFSA are:
- Your Social Security Number
- Parent’s 2015 Tax Returns (If Student is Dependent)
- Bank Statements
- Business Statements (If Student or Parent own a Business)
- Citizenship Records (alien registration or permanent resident card if you are not a U.S. Citizen)
Do not wait until the last minute to file your FAFSA! If you want to go to college, it is important that you do not wait until the last minute to file because deadlines can vary from schools and states. If you ever have any questions involving the FAFSA or any other type of financial aid, you are welcome to go to the Career Center and ask questions.