If you are like most high school students, applying for scholarships can seem like a daunting task. And the first step in this process is the tedious job of filling out your FAFSA. Colleges require that you fill out this form if you want to receive scholarships from the school, and the government determines if you are eligible for federal student aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is free to fill out but can definitely eat up a lot of time if you begin it unprepared. Here are some tips that will hopefully make this process easy and quick for you and your family.
FAFSA PIN NUMBER
First, you and one parent or guardian will need to register for pin numbers. This code is what you will use to electronically “sign” your FAFSA.
Go to this website, and apply for your pin number. Make sure to write this information down and keep it safe! You only have to apply once, but you will need your pin numbers each time you fill out your FAFSA. (which is every year of college)
ORGANIZE YOUR INFO
The best way to get organized is to put your paperwork and information in two separate folders:
Folder 1. Income and Expense Info
In this folder, you’re going to need to collect taxable income and nontaxable income for both you and your parents. Also, collect any expenses such as US income tax paid and child support paid. Make sure that if you’re applying for the 2012-2013 award year, you collect data from 2011.
Folder 2. Asset Info
This folder basically tells how much money you or your parents have. This includes the value of cash, savings, and checking accounts held by both you and your parents; the net worth of all you and your parents’ investments; and the net worth of any family business or farm.
Try to be as accurate as you can. And don’t be afraid to include your parents in this process! Especially the first time around, they will be very helpful in sorting out all the information you need.
THE FAFSA ITSELF
Once you’ve gathered your information, the rest of the application is pretty straightforward. Here’s just a general outline of what to expect:
1. Questions 1-17 – personal basics like name, email, social security number, etc.
2. Questions 18-31 -Your educational plans, your parents past education, the type of aid you want to be considered for (this is like loans or work study), registration for the Selective Service, and drug offences.
3. Questions 32-47- tax filing status and your income and assets.(again, parental guidance is suggested!)
4. Questions 48-54- depend on whether or not you are independent of your parents or not. If you are considered independent, meaning your parents no longer financially support you, your eligibility for financial aid will be determined without consideration of your parents’ income and assets.
5. Questions 55-69 – parents’ marital status and family
6. Questions 70-72 – your parents’ tax filing status
7. Questions 73-83 – your parents’ income and assets
8. The next section is only relevant for independent students. Only answer if you’re financially independent of your parents.
9. Questions 86-97 ask you about what colleges you want to receive your FAFSA information and also ask you if you plan to live on campus or off campus of these colleges.
10. Finally, you and your parents simply have to sign and date the form with your pin numbers and you’re done!
What happens after? Around 3 to 4 weeks after your family mails in your FAFSA form, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR includes all the info you put in your application and how much money you’ll be expected to contribute to college costs. Also, this report will indicate how much federal aid you are eligible for.
Good luck! There’s no need to stress over applying for college. Hopefully these tips will help to make your process easy.