FAFSA Tips – Quick Hints to Filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid

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A Pain-Free Guide to Completing Your FAFSA

written by: Lisa Phelps for Student Choice

My youngest son is in his last semester of college and due to graduate in May. Do you know what the best part of the statement is?

He and I don’t have to complete the FAFSA this year!

 

I have three children so I’ve had to fill out at least one FAFSA every year for the last 8 years! Granted, it gets easier every year, but to be honest, I’m glad I don’t ever have to do it again.

 

I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about completing the FAFSA to make it as easy and painless as possible. So, here goes!

 

First and foremost:

Your FAFSA should be completed as soon as possible, starting right now! Yes you need the information from your 2014 tax return, but don’t wait until you’ve completed your taxesto start on the form. You can use estimated figures and go back and fix them once you’ve completed your taxes. (You have until June 30 to submit your FAFSA to qualify for Federal Aid. Each state has its own deadline for State Aid, so click here for more information.)

 

Now before you even begin to fill out the lengthy FAFSA form, gather the following:

  • W-2 forms
  • End of year pay stubs
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s License

 

It’s also very important to thoroughly read the instructions!!!

 

The following tips are based on what I learned filling out the FAFSA a dozen times for my three children:

 

  • The earlier you file, the better and chances are you’ll have better access to campus-based or state (and not just federal) financial aid options.
  • If you’re still a dependent of your parents’, you’ll need their financial information to complete the FAFSA. If you’re married or part of a same-sex couple, you can file as an independent and include information about your spouse.
  • Be very careful when entering your information. Make sure your birth date and social security number are correct and that your name matches what’s printed on your social security card. Any discrepancies can delay the processing of your form.
  • You’ll need a Federal School Code for each school you’re applying to. You can get that number right here.
  • Plan to import your tax information directly from your electronic tax forms. Just wait two weeks after you file; it will save you a lot of time and hassle. Editor’s note: When I filed my taxes, I was able to print of a FAFSA Summary Sheet that literally gave me every number to enter in the FAFSA – what a time saver!
  • If you have an answer that’s “ZERO,” be sure to type “0” in the blank so your form can be processed correctly.
  • Even if you’re not sure you want to do work/study, answer YES to questions about it so you’ll have more financial aid options but you. You’re not obligated to accept them.
  • Boys must register with the Selective Service if they’re between the ages of 18-25, which you can do from the FAFSA form. If you don’t, you’ll be ineligible for federal financial aid.
  • Be sure to hit the SAVE button often to prevent losing your information. You’re also free to stop and log back in later to complete the form.
  • If you need help, ask for it! There are HELP and CHAT buttons throughout the form. You can also call the government’s toll free help number: 800-433-3243.
  • Be sure that both you and your parent (if they’ve supplied information) sign the form. You can do this electronically by applying for a PIN through the FAFSA form. Missing signatures will also delay processing. Bonus tip: Save your PINs in a safe place so you can use them every year.
  • Once you’ve completed the form, look over the Summary page very carefully to make sure all the information is correct.

 

The good news is that after you complete the form for your freshman year, a lot of the information is saved and is imported into next year’s FAFSA. It really is easier than everyone thinks and it’s worth the effort – TRUST ME!

 

Put aside about an hour to complete the form. If you’re organized, it’s pretty quick and painless.

 

Good luck!

 

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