If you're looking to attend college in the near future, there's a good chance that you've heard about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid - otherwise known as the FAFSA. This is an online form that you, as a student, will need to fill out before attending college. It will tell you if you're eligible for any financial aid from the government. Financial aid is crucial for many students to help pay their way through college. In fact, a total of 17.7 million students filed the FAFSA during the 2019-2020 school year.
Though filling out the FAFSA may seem daunting at first, it's actually quite simple, especially if you keep in mind the following tips.
Gather All Necessary Documents
You'll want to make sure that you have all of the necessary documents on hand so that the process goes as smoothly as possible. This will ensure that you don't have to frantically search for these documents while you're filling out your FAFSA application. The main documents you'll need include, but are not limited to: a FSA account, records of untaxed income, drivers license number, tax records, social security number, record of assets, and a list of the schools that you're interested in attending. Try to gather these documents before starting the FAFSA so you have everything on hand and can move through the process without stopping and starting.
Create a FSA ID
One of the first things that you will want to do when filling out the FAFSA is to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Come up with a secure username and password so that you can easily access your application online, sign loan contracts, sign into the myStudentAid app, and more.
Choose Where You'll Fill Out Your FAFSA
There are numerous different methods that you can use to fill out your FAFSA application. The first option is to use the myStudentAid app on your mobile device, which you can download on iOS or Android devices. The second way that you can fill out your FAFSA application is to visit the Federal Student Aid website on your computer or laptop. If you don't have access to a mobile device, laptop, or computer, you can request a printed PDF by calling 1-800-433-3243.
Set Aside Two Hours of Your Time
Another tip we have is to schedule time to complete your FAFSA. Mark it in your calendar and allot two hours to go through the process. Make sure you choose a place to fill out your FAFSA where you will not be distrubed. You'll want to have time to work on the application in a place with minimal distractions so you can remain focused and enter in the correct information.
Be Aware of Deadlines
Each state requires that you submit your FAFSA by a specific deadline. Please be aware that if you do not submit all of the required documents and/or information before the cutoff point, you could hurt your chances of receiving financial aid. You can find out more about what the deadline is for your state by going to the Federal Student Aid website.
Patience is Key
Once you fill out your FAFSA, it may take some time for your application to get processed. You should get an email within a few days time after submitting your application, but in certain cases, the school that you're looking to attend may ask for additional information. Keep checking your email daily to ensure that you don't miss any important messages. And, if you do receive messages or requests for additional information, be sure to answer as soon as possible to avoid delays or missed deadlines.
Ask For Help if You Need it
Don't be afraid to ask for help while filling out your application. If you have any questions or need assistance with specific parts of the FAFSA, consider asking a loved one for help, check for frequently asked questions at fafsa.gov, or call 1-800-433-3243. The FAFSA application is typically pretty easy to complete, but there may be instances when you could run into a roadblock. If you know someone that has completed the FAFSA before, reach out to them for assistance.
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