Whether you are going to college for the first time next year or you are now attending college, if you need financial help to pay for your education, you all need to begin the application process…NOW!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available January 1. This form is the first step in getting financial aid for college. The information the form requires will determine your eligibility for grants, loans, work study, and scholarships.
The window for application is January to April, but the earlier you apply the better. The reasons to apply early are 1) particular states and colleges each have different deadlines and some are quite early, as early as February, and 2) grant programs, the ones you do not have to repay, may be given on a first-come-first-serve basis, depending on the state.
So, get your FAFSA application form in as early as you can!
Here are some tips for getting your application for student aid done and done early:
1. Get your PIN in advance. You can get it through the Federal Student Aid Office, and you will need it to sign your application. Don’t wait to get it when you start filling out your form. If you have it available, it will save you time.
2. File online. When you fill out the online form instead of the print version, the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool will allow you to share your tax records with FAFSA automatically, saving time. The online form also has a place to check off for reminders by email to fill in any updates on the form you may have to make.
3. Don’t wait for your W-2 Forms to arrive. They often come late in January or even later. Rather, complete your application with estimates for your tax return. You can use a pay stub from last year or your last tax return and update your information later when you have completed your taxes.
4. Look at the confirmation page which appears after you fill out your application. It will contain useful information to complete and, thus, expedite your application.
5. Make sure to find out if you need additional financial aid application forms. Some states and some colleges/universities will require that you submit the CSS/Financial Aid Profile for additional information.
All of the above will help you apply early and avoid delays. You must be early, be thorough, and be diligent. It can mean real dollars for you!