A lot of students wonder how they can afford college. Well, that starts with the FAFSA. Filing the FAFSA is one of the most important financial aid tasks you need to accomplish. It opens the gate to federal scholarships, loans, and work study programs. More than that, many outside scholarship opportunities require you to have the FAFSA filed too. Everyone needs to file the FAFSA. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you qualify for aid. There’s no harm in filing the FAFSA. Not to mention, filing the FAFSA makes you eligible for a lot of gift aid and federal student loans.
That being said, how do you do file it? What information will you need to complete the form? After all, the FAFSA form is long and can be a bit complicated.
Social Security Number
Let’s start off with the easiest one. You’ll need your social security number (often referred to as SSN) for the FAFSA. If you don’t have a social security number, you’ll have to indicate that when filing the FAFSA.
Federal Tax Returns, W-2s, Other Income Records
In order to calculate your financial need level, you need to report your family’s income (as well as any personal income). That’s where these records and forms come into play.
Fortunately, thanks to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you may be able to automatically plug in your tax return information into your FAFSA form. It’s a big time saver. Keep in mind that you should review all the information and numbers filled in anyway, just in case there was some mistake. If you can’t use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you’ll need to manually input your family’s income and tax forms into the FAFSA forms.
Additionally, Prior Prior Year allows you to file the previous years’ income information. Meaning that if, for example, you’re filing for the 2019-2020 school year, you can use your 2017 income information. This lets you file earlier (potentially right on October 1st when the FAFSA is released). Not only do you get the FAFSA out the way sooner, you know you aren’t missing any deadlines that keep you from any additional aid. It’s one less thing to worry about while applying to college and you may even get more aid.
Bank Statements / Records of Investments
This may not apply to every student filing the FAFSA, but you have to report things like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments. These will count as assets the federal government will take into consideration along with your financial circumstances.
Again, this may not apply to everyone, but sources of untaxed income can include the following: welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran benefits, military / clergy allowances, etc. These are also taken into consideration when deciding your financial aid package.
If you plan to sign the FAFSA electronically, you’ll need your FSA ID—Federal Student Aid Identification. This acts as a sort of identifying signature when it comes to federal financial aid. Be sure to remember or keep your FSA ID somewhere so you don’t forget it.