According to USA Today, the average cost of a public, in-state college is $10,116 per year. The average cost of a private college is $36,801 per year.
Thankfully, this is only the sticker price.
Many students are eligible for loans and grants, reducing the out-of-pocket cost of college per year.
However, the student needs to fill out the FAFSA form to become eligible for financial aid.
The form may seem intimidating, but don’t worry. Keep reading and we’ll tell you everything you need to know so you can breeze through the form with confidence.
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA Form is a government financial aid tool that determines how much money in federal student loans you are eligible to take out.
It also determines your eligibility for a Pell Grant, which are awarded to students with financial need.
Loans will need to be repaid, but the Pell Grant does not. The federal government determines both of these figures by analyzing you and your family’s income and assets.
The FAFSA opens on October 1, 2019, and closes June 30, 2020. Please note that many schools need the FAFSA to be completed before June 30th. Check with an admissions counselor if you’re unsure when your deadline is.
You must submit a new FAFSA Form every year that you are in college.
Create an FSA ID
The first step to filling out the FAFSA Form is creating an FSA ID, which is a username and password. If the student is dependent, please note that the student and the parent will both need separate FSA IDs.
Your FSA ID will also allow you to log in to the myStudentAid app and sign loan contracts.
Gather Necessary Documents
Most first-time college students will be considered dependent. Note that the definition of dependency for the FAFSA Form differs from the dependency for taxes. If you have any doubts about your status, read this guide.
Here are the documents that the student and parent should gather before starting the FAFSA:
- The student’s Social Security Number
- The parents’ Social Security Number (if dependent)
- The student’s Driver’s License Number (if applicable)
- The student’s Alien Registration Number (if applicable)
- Tax information for the student, the student’s spouse (if married), and the student’s parents (if dependent)
- Additional income information like untaxed income, child support, etc. for both the student and the parents (if dependent)
- Asset information like cash, account balances, etc.
If your parents are married or they are unmarried but live together, you must report both parents’ financial information.
If your parents are divorced, you will only report the financial information for the parent you live with the most. If you spend an equal amount of time with your parents, then you will only report the income of the parent that contributes more money to you.
If the parent you are reporting has remarried, you must also factor in the step-parent’s income in your FAFSA.
Create a Save Key
Before you start filling out the FAFSA Form, you first must create a Save Key. This is a temporary password so you can save your progress and return to the same form later.
You can share your Save Key with your parents so they can make edits onto the same FAFSA Form. This is especially helpful if the student and parents are not in the same city.
If you filled out a FAFSA last year, you have the option to renew your FAFSA. In your My FAFSA account, select “Renew FAFSA.” Many of the non-financial questions will be filled out for you.
If any of your information has changed from the previous year, remember to make updates on your current FAFSA.
Note that only students can start the FAFSA application, so parents can only access their student’s form after the student has created it.
If you are a high school senior, select every college that you’re thinking of applying to. You can select up to 10 schools.
These schools will automatically receive your financial information. They can use that to help determine the financial aid letter they will send you.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
When you are on the “Parent Financials” and “Student Financials” tabs, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This will allow the IRS to automatically fill in your tax information for you.
You will be redirected to the IRS website where you will need to enter your information exactly as it appears on your tax return. Then, you will transfer that information back to the FAFSA.
The information transferred successfully if your FAFSA Form says “Transferred from the IRS.” Note that you will not be able to see or edit any numbers.
If your parents divorced during the last year or if a parent has remarried, you will have to manually calculate their tax information.
Sign and Submit the FAFSA Form
Once the FAFSA Form is complete, then the student and parents need to sign and submit it. Note that the student must sign and submit using their FSA ID and the parents must use their own FSA ID.
If the parents have other children in college, they can use the same FSA ID for every child. At the confirmation page, the parents will be given the option to transfer their tax information onto their other children’s FAFSAs.
If your parent does not have a Social Security Number, they must print out the signature page and manually sign the FAFSA. Then, they must mail in their signature.
You’re One Step Closer to the New School Year
You can rest easy because your FAFSA form is now complete for the upcoming school year. Your college can now use your FAFSA information to give you a personalized financial aid letter.
If you want to reduce the cost of college further, you can opt to live with roommates or rent your textbooks. Save money and check out our wide selection of textbooks and eBooks.