Before we get to what you need to know about the FAFSA before October 1st, here are three basic things you should know:
What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is an application that college students are required to fill out in order to be eligible for student aid.
Why is Filing the FAFSA so Important?
Because filling the FAFSA grants you access to the funds that are disbursed every year to students by way of college grants, student loans, and work study awards. If you do not submit the FAFSA, your only option for getting any additional funds you need is by taking private student loans, which can be extremely expensive. The federal government has aimed to make the application accessible and easy to navigate; recently, the FAFSA application has also become completed via the FAFSA mobile app.
Why October 1st?
Because that’s the day the FAFSA becomes available for the current academic year. Although you will have plenty of time to submit your FAFSA after October 1st, it is always better to submit it as early as possible. The earlier you submit the application, the higher your chances of getting the maximum financial aid that you are eligible for.
Things You Should Know & Do Ahead of October 1st
Now that we’ve got the basic details of the FAFSA covered, here are a few important things you should know and do before October 1st:
Start Getting Organized Today
The FAFSA application is long with more than 100 questions. Some argue that it is too long, but that’s an argument for another day. For now, you have to answer all the questions and fill in all the details asked for in order for your application to be considered complete. Leaving out even one question will get your application marked as incomplete and it will not be processed, denying you access to federal student aid. To help you stay organized, the website provides a service called myChecklist, providing users with assistance surrounding student aid.
The FAFSA asks you for a lot of information regarding your family situation and your finances. You will also need to fill in some personal details. Instead of scrambling after October 1st to get all of the details you need to fill in, why not start getting it all together today? That way you have it all ready to go on October 1st and can start filling in the form right away.
These are some details you should have ready before you start filling in the FAFSA:
- Your Social Security number: You should normally have it with you. If you do, that’s great – you don’t need to do anything else. But if you don’t have it or don’t know where it is, you can apply for a new or replacement card from the Social Security Administration. This can take some time, so make sure and check today whether or not you have your Social Security card. Don’t worry; for security purposes, student’s social security numbers are masked on the log-in page.
- Your Driver’s License Number: If you have a driver’s license you will need to fill in your license number. If you do not have a driver’s license, this does not apply to you.
- Your Previous Year’s Tax Records: Earlier all tax information was imported directly from the IRS records but this has recently changes. Now families are required to report income information from an earlier tax year.
- Your FSA ID: This is a username and password that is required for logging in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID is required for completing the FAFSA process but creating one can take time. Creating your FSA ID early will ensure that you are ready to start filling the FAFSA form on October 1st.
- Your Parents’ FSA ID: Your parents may also need to create an FSA ID if their information is required on the FAFSA form. Start doing your homework on this now so you can start the formalities at the earliest.
- List of Colleges You’re Interested in Attending: You can add up to 10 schools on the FAFSA, so if you’ve got more than 10 on your shortlist, think about which 10 you want to add. You can add any 10 schools that you are considering, even those that you have not applied to yet or those that have not accepted you yet. If you are considering a college, add it to the FAFSA so those colleges get your information electronically and can start putting together your financial aid package if you are accepted.
Procrastination Can Cost You
Maybe you don’t have all the information you need ready by October 1st or maybe you think the deadline is some time away so no real need to rush. The truth is, procrastinating and focusing on only the FAFSA deadline is a mistake that can cost you big.
Every college has their own financial aid application deadline. You MUST check the deadlines for each of the colleges you are interested in applying to. The FAFSA deadline may be three months away but if the college financial aid application deadline is earlier, that earlier date is what is crucial. If you file the FAFSA within after the college deadline, you will lose your eligibility for any financial aid disbursed by the college.
Also, most colleges and schools allocate limited funds to be distributed as award money. They give this out on a first come first served basis till the funds run out. If you wait too long to submit the FAFSA, you may be too late to receive any of these reserved funds.
File the FAFSA Even If You Think You are Not Eligible for Financial Aid
It’s surprising how many students do not file the FAFSA because they think they may not qualify for federal grants. As a general rule, if you are planning on attending college, you should file the FAFSA regardless of family income or any other circumstances. Even if you do not qualify for one type of aid, you still need the FAFSA to be eligible for grants, scholarships, and other financial aid awarded by colleges and some states.
You can change your mind later and decide not to accept any federal student aid, but for now, get your information ready and prepare for filling the FAFSA on October 1st or at the earliest date after that.