Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA

Sep 28, 2020 10:05:17 AM

Attention, students! After October 1st, the new FAFSA forms for the 2021-2022 academic year are available online. So why not get a head start and fill out your FAFSA sooner rather than later? If you start filling out forms and collecting the necessary documents now, that will mean that when next year rolls around, your FAFSA is ready to go and you’re all set to receive as much federal financial aid as possible for college or graduate school.

Not sure precisely what FAFSA is, how much financial aid you might be entitled to, or what you need to do next? Read on for a quick guide to everything you need to know about FAFSA.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the key form you need to fill out in order to be eligible for any financial support from the federal government, which can help you pay for college.

Who Should Fill Out a FAFSA?

Everyone! It’s free and easy to fill out a FAFSA, so there’s no reason not to.

When Do I Apply?

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1, to apply for aid in the following academic year. That means that the FAFSA available on October 1, 2020, will help students seeking aid for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Financial aid submission deadlines vary by school, so be sure to check in with your college about when they need all your information. The federal deadline to receive your FAFSA is June 30 – which might seem like a long time away, but it’ll be here before you know it! Many states have earlier state deadlines; and schools have even earlier deadlines. Find out what the deadlines are for your state and schools that you are interested in, and make your deadline the earliest one so you may qualify for state, school and federal aid.

Start working on your application well in advance of this date to ensure you have enough time to gather the necessary information. You can file as early as October 1, when the forms go live; and what’s more, financial aid is often distributed on a first come, first served basis. So why wait?

I Already Did a FAFSA Last Year – Can I Stop Reading?

Not so fast! The FAFSA needs to be re-submitted every single year that you intend to apply for financial aid, even if your school and financial situation haven’t changed since the year before. So if you’re planning to be a student for the 2021-2022 school year – you need to fill out your FAFSA.

What Info Do I Need to Apply?

The FAFSA application will firstly ask for some basic personal information, including your name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number if you have one, and so on. You’ll also need to list out the schools you want to receive your FAFSA information, as schools’ financial aid staff have the ultimate job of calculating your cost of attendance versus family contribution and other sources of income or aid, to determine how much federal financial aid you’re entitled to.

If you’re a dependent student, meaning you still rely on your family for financial assistance, then you’ll also need key information from your parents or legal guardians – including their society security and tax numbers, plus information about their savings, investments, real estate assets and so on. All of this information will help the federal government get a better picture of how much your family can afford to spend on college and how much financial assistance you’re due.

The financial information you’ll need to provide for FAFSA refers to past tax records; for example, the 2021-2022 FAFSA asks for tax information from 2019.

How Has COVID-19 Affected FAFSA?

FAFSA information is still being processed as normal by the U.S. Department of Education, which means your FAFSA details will be sent to schools where you’re applying, even if their campus is physically closed. Still, if you have any concerns about this process, get in touch with your university’s department of financial aid and see how they can help.

As mentioned above, the FAFSA asks for tax information that may be over a year old – so it’s possible that your or your family’s financial situation may have recently changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, or for any other number of reasons.

In that case, fill out the FAFSA as normal using the required tax information, even if this reflects a previous financial situation that’s no longer true. After everything is filled out as required, get in touch with your school to explain what’s happened and why you may actually be entitled to more aid than outlined on the FAFSA. Your school will be able to support you in taking the next steps to possibly receive more aid.

Where Do I Go For More Help?

Filling out the FAFSA can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to thinking about taxes and paperwork, so don’t be afraid to get more help if you need it! There are plenty of good resources online, including the official Federal Student Aid website at studentaid.gov.

Tags: Student Finances