The fund is regulated by the U.S Department of Education, providing more than $150 billion in student aid every year. Eligibility for federal grants and federal loans is based on student’s financial need as determined by the information supplied on the FAFSA.
Note: The 2018 – 2019 FAFSA form was made available on October 1, and the final deadline is June 30, 2019.
Common misconceptions about the FAFSA form:
- Families who make a lot of money will not qualify
- Only students with good grades receive financial aid
- Older students don’t qualify for financial aid
FAFSA forms are also used by some institutions to determine whether students are eligible for any institutional aid, including assistance that is not dependent on a needs-base. Completing the FAFSA form automatically qualifies students for a low-cost Federal Student loan of at least 5,500 a year.
Fact: Everyone who is getting ready to go to college or career school should fill out the FAFSA form.
What are Tips for Completing the 2018-2019 FAFSA Form?
Gather What You Need Ahead of Time
Getting organized in advance is very important. When you set out to fill out the FAFSA form, you are likely to experience delays if all the information isn’t complete. Before applying, gather the following documents:
- Social security number for students and parents or alien registration numbers for non-U. S citizens
- Federal Student aid ID. You need to create a FAFSA ID online which will give you access to Federal Student Aid online systems
- Driver’s license or any other eligible government ID tax returns for student and parents
- Records of untaxed income such as child support
- Record of assets such as bank statements and investments
- Federal school codes for the schools you will apply to.
Fact: Gathering documents may take longer than filling up the form itself. With all the documents ready, it will take you 31 minutes, on average to fill the forms.
Be Aware of Deadlines
Even though the deadline for submitting the form is June 30, 2019, you should fill out the form as early as possible. Financial aid is on a first come, first served basis. The earlier you fill out FAFSA form, the better your chances are for receiving financial aid. Some states award money until aid runs out, so it’s best not to wait until the spring deadline to complete and submit your form.
Federal deadlines are not the only ones that matter, colleges set their own financial aid deadlines. Also, states have their own financial aid filing deadlines.
Familiarize Yourself with the Online Data Retrieval Tool
Recent changes have occurred with FAFSA online Data Retrieval Tool. The online tool was shut down in early March because of security concerns. Here are the key changes to be aware of:
- Tax information transferred via Data Retrieval Tool will not be shown. To enhance security, the new solution will encrypt the applicant’s or parents’ information and hide it from view on both the IRS DRT website and on the FAFSA web pages. Only the school will be able to see the numbers
- Applicants will not be able to amend or edit information entered into the FAFSA
- Some families may not be able to use the Data Retrieval Tool. Applicants and parents who filed a joint tax return will no longer be able to transfer their combined income earned from work into FAFSA form from IRS website
Name Enough Schools
The FAFSA form allows you to designate up to 10 schools to receive your financial aid information. It is prudent to pick all ten. If you did not list a school and you end up choosing it, you will only get financial aid after other students who named the school on the FAFSA form. Also, some state schools require that you list them at the top of the list to get more aid. If there is no state school, list a school from a neighboring state.
Fill out Other Needed Forms
Many private schools and some scholarship programs also require an additional financial aid form, called the CSS / Financial Aid profile. The institutions use this form to calculate grants, loans, and scholarships they award. The form asks for more detailed information.
The FAFSA process can be a headache, but it is not impossible. You may have heard how daunting the form is, with more than 100 questions. Consider contacting your high school college counselor or asking a trusted teacher to assist you.