It's that time of year again- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly referred to as the FAFSA) is live and thousands of students are gearing up to submit theirs. The FAFSA can be confusing to many students, parents, and even school officials. But with this quick guide to the FAFSA along with some "do's and don'ts", you should be prepared to file yours!
To start us off, I just wanted to give you the basics. The official FAFSA website is www.fafsa.gov- not www.fafsa.com. If you go to this second website (or anything other than www.fafsa.gov), you may end up having to pay to have your FAFSA processed. Remember, the first "f" in FAFSA stands for "free", so use the official government site to submit your application. NEVER pay for financial aid assistance!
What else do you need to know? Our school code is 003868, which you will need when it asks you to select schools to send your FAFSA to. And finally, our priority deadline is March 15th! What does this mean? Filing by the priority deadline will give you the best chance to get the full amount of federal and state grants you are eligible for! No, it's not the final deadline for the FAFSA, but if you are a Pell Grant, Wisconsin Tuition Grant, or other state or federal grant recipient, we encourage you to get yours in as soon as possible! Now, the part we've all been waiting for... FAFSA do's and don'ts!
- File a FAFSA every year. Many students and parents think that the FAFSA is a "one and done" process, but it's not! Remember to file a 2016-2017 FAFSA if you will be in attendance (and would like financial aid) for the 2016-2017 academic year.
- Prepare your federal income taxes early. Be sure to have your parents prepare their taxes early, too, especially if you are a dependent student.
- Get a FSA ID now. This Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is used for many things, but in relation to the FAFSA, it allows you to sign electronically! To start the process of creating one or to retrieve yours, visit https://fsaid.ed.gov/ . *Dependent students should make sure that their parents also have a FSA ID.*
- Make sure to use your legal name, as shown on your Social Security card. Also, enter your date of birth and other demographic information carefully. An incorrect SSN, date of birth, or name may delay your application, meaning you miss important deadlines and opportunities for aid! So double-check before you hit "submit".
- Read every question carefully and complete every field according to the FAFSA instructions. The computer often reads a blank as an error, and the FAFSA will not always tell you when something is wrong. The FAFSA is equipped with a lovely tool- skip logic- that helps you avoid answering unnecessary questions.
- Answer the question about work-study. If you're interested in getting a job on campus, most of our positions are for work-study students. Keep in mind that even if you say "yes" to this question, you may not be eligible for work-study funds.
- Save your online work frequently. Maybe you'll have to get off your computer to grab a bite to eat, check out that new episode of "New Girl", or just don't have the time to complete the FAFSA all in one sitting. The website allows you to save your work and return to it later- so take advantage of this feature and don't lose your answers!
- Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) carefully. The SAR is what gets sent to the schools of your choice and has valuable information for you as well. Not only will this report give you a glimpse of what you can expect for Federal Pell Grant and student loans, but it will also tell you if there are any errors or if you are selected for verification.
- Assume you are ineligible for financial aid. Even the child of a millionaire can still qualify for student loans- you never know what you may qualify for!
- Forget to sign before you submit. When filing, make sure to use the correct FSA IDs for you and your parent(s).
- Procrastinate. Schedule a time to complete the FAFSA before March 15th and increase your chances of getting all the aid you deserve! Some funds run out quickly and you don't want to be placed on a waiting list for funds that you could have received if you would have filed early.
- Hesitate to contact our office. We're here to help you with any and all of your financial aid questions- including how to file the FAFSA, explaining different errors that were made, or to help you understand the different aid types we have offered you.
So go out there and get started! Gather your materials and get ready to file your FAFSA. Keep in mind our priority deadline of March 15th. If all else fails, ESTIMATE- DON'T BE LATE!
Want a walk-through of the FAFSA? Check out this neat video! How to Fill Out the FAFSA