FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you are a student requiring financial aid, you must start by filling out this form, and submitting it to your college. This will open for you many doors of getting financial aid.
You cannot do much without this form, i.e. when applying for grants and other forms of financial aid. You will also need it when applying for student loans issued by the federal government and other lenders that are willing to help with your tuition.
To show you just how serious this form is; In 2017, more than $2 billion student loans was unclaimed simply because parents and students failed to fill in the FAFSA form.
Now, let me give you a small tip; The earlier you fill out this form, the better it shall be for you, because most institutions will issue loans on a first come first served basis, and if you delay, you may find that the funds allocated for student loans have already been exhausted and you have not received anything.
But you need to know that you must have your parent’s cooperation with the form. Assuming that you are one of their dependents, the form will require you to disclose certain information about your parents such as their income, assets, and taxes. All of this is used to determine your aid worthiness.
This information should not worry you. They are not trying to put them on the hook, but rather trying to understand how desperately you need financial aid.
Now, FAFSA original and FAFSA renewal are two different things. FAFSA is the first application form you fill for financial aid in your first year, or while still in high school. It sets the ball rolling for your financial aid application.
This infamously long and extremely tedious process of filling out the FAFSA form is not only for high school kids, but every year, parents and college students will fill out a FAFSA renewal form in order to update their current personal information, or to qualify for additional aid.
It is filled by students who had been awarded financial aid in the previous year. The process of FAFSA renewal isn’t as tedious as the previous one, because they use demographic data from the previous forms to pre-fill the new FAFSA renewal form.
You will, however, be required to answer some questions regarding your taxes and current financial position. The form will also update any personal information that may have changed since your last form.
Why should you complete a FAFSA each year?
This is extremely important because life is unpredictable and things are constantly changing. A new year can bring in new jobs, marriages, babies, and many more. One very small change to your current circumstances can make a big impact on you receiving financial aid or not.
For example. There is a big increase in the number of children in college, and this, if reported on your FAFSA renewal form, can significantly reduce your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This simply means that you shall now be eligible for more student aid, which is fantastic.
The financial aid formulas also change constantly, and when you keep your information up to date, you may find yourself either eligible for more aid, or less monthly installment.
What I am trying to say is that a lot can change in a year, and it is therefore important if you are smart to ensure that you fill out your FAFSA form each year with accurate and updated information, that will ensure that you get all the benefits if there are any.
Here are some steps you should take so as to make this a smooth process:
Ensure the pre-filled information is accurate:
You must first ensure that you have your FSA ID, before logging into the FAFSA.gov website. An FSA ID is simply a username and password that you must have in order to access Federal student aid websites e. g. fafsa.gov. It is a means of identifying you as someone who needs to access the information available on these websites.
Previously, students used to use the Federal student aid PIN, but have recently changed to FSA ID. This is a more secure login process compared to the PIN and will eliminate the need for parents and students to provide personal information such as DOB, name and social security number any time they need to submit a FAFSA form.
If you do not have your FSA ID, you will not be able to access the FAFSA website.
If you have forgotten your login details, do not worry, it is actually quite normal, and if it happens to most people. The website provides options for you to be able to recover your login details. On the log-in page, you will find options that say “Forgot my password” and “forgot my username” click on these links so you can start the process of recovery.
Once you gain access into the fafsa.gov website, the system will automatically recognize you as someone who filled out the form the previous year. Your name, address, and other personal information will already be pre-filled on the form. This will save you at least 10 minutes of having to fill out this information all over again.
It is important for you to ensure that the information is accurate. But, because it is based on the information you provided the previous year, it will not have an update of your current address or your college information. This you must input immediately.
There is an assumed logic when it comes to FAFSA, that some incorrect information can sometimes be added erroneously, and it is only wise that you correct it now, rather than waiting to do it at a later date when your application has already been rejected.
This will cause unnecessary delays to your financial aid application.
One other thing you will need as you start the process of filling out the FAFSA renewal form is that if you are a dependent student, then you will require your parents to log in also, in order to complete the form.
Your parents must have their own FSA ID and password in order to log into the website. This should have previously been created the first time you applied for financial aid on the fafsa.gov website.
You cannot share the ID with your parents, and both you and your parent will have unique ID’s for recognition. This is your signature and cannot be shared. However, if you are a parent with more than one child applying for financial aid, you can use the same ID on all the applications, but each child must have their own ID’s.
Filling out the information;
Now, once you have your login details, your tax information and your parents are also ready with log in ID and password, you can now be able to apply for a FAFSA renewal. After verifying that your personal information is accurate, you can proceed.
This is how the page looks like;
Important income information:
Together with your parents, you must ensure that you enter the updated and accurate financial information, as I have mentioned above. This helps the school to determine how much financial aid you will be needing. You can use the IRS data retrieval tool in order to retrieve the correct tax information and update this on your FAFSA renewal form.
As a result of the changes made by the department of information, you can actually be able to file your tax information from the previous two years. This will simply be a process of updating the information that you had already fed into the system the previous year.
Finally, you must update any changes to your student status, such as your grade level, and whether or not you have moved from undergraduate to graduate. The application form will automatically prompt you to fill out these details.
You must pay very close attention to deadlines. The FAFSA renewal for the 2019/2020 year was opened on the 1st of October 2018. This will remain open until 30th of June 2020. There are many schools however that require an earlier deadline, or that require a priority deadline in order for their students to renew their scholarships and grants.
Now, my advice as always – The earlier the better. Regardless of the school, you are attending, and their special deadlines, ensure that you fill in your forms as early as possible. Financial aid depends highly on a first-come-first-served basis, so, ensure to always be the first.
Another reason for early application is that it gives you an opportunity and time to correct any issues that may arise. One of which could be the need to supply additional information. If you have filled your form early enough, all of these can be taken care of before you even report to school for the next semester.
Once you complete filling out all of the information required, you can finally submit the form. You should know however that there are situations where you may be required to provide more information when need be.
Your FAFSA renewal is now ready for review.
Any student can be chosen to verify the information provided. This means that you may be required to provide additional information regarding your tax or personal information. You must not feel victimized about this, as it is purely for confirmation purposes and random, which means that you haven’t necessarily made any mistakes.
They normally take a small sample of all the applications and perform some verification of their applications.
As you can see, filling out a FAFSA renewal form is very important, and if you are a student on student aid, you must ensure that each year you fill out this form, so that the federal government can always have your updated information.
Keep in mind that when you fill out the forms, you may end up with some more student aid options. I would encourage everyone to fill in their FAFSA forms and apply for an FSA ID, whether you are planning on requesting for financial aid or not.
With this form, you may still become eligible to other loans, not just those issued by the federal government, such as the college funds.