Filling out your FAFSA forms is not hard but there are a lot of things that are very easy to miss.
You don’t want to miss out on your student loans because you did not pay attention to an obscure detail.
In this post, I’ll go over five things you need to pay attention to when filing your FAFSA.
Plus, make sure you don't miss the FAFSA filing deadlines for your state.
Create an FSA ID
Your FSA ID allows you to identify yourself electronically when you access government websites that are dedicated to helping you complete your student loan applications.
While an FSA ID is not required to complete a FAFSA on the Web application, it becomes necessary when you have to provide an electronic signature that is required to process your application.
In fact, according to the FAFSA website, it is the fastest way to sign your signature online.
Keep Your FSA ID in a Safe Place — It Is Not Advisable That You Give It to Anyone Else!
Your FSA ID is yours and yours alone.
You cannot have a third party create it for you.
As I mentioned above, an FSA ID is your unique electronic signature for your FAFSA forms. It also gives you access to all of the government websites that handle student loans. The moment your FSA ID is used to access or sign something, it becomes a legal document on file.
If something ever does come up, you don’t want to be scrambling for answers. Thus, when you create your FSA ID, store that information in a safe place and don’t give it to anybody else.
Know Which Forms to Fill Out
When you file your FAFSA online, do you know which forms to fill out?
It can get confusing very quickly.
Thankfully, you’re reading this post so it is not as complicated as you think. File the form that aligns with the academic year you will need the money for.
You can review the FAFSA deadlines here.
- If you are applying for financial aid for the 2019–2020 school year, you should file a 2019–2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- If you are applying for financial aid for the 2020–2021 school year, you should file a 2020–2021 FAFSA.
- If you plan to attend summer classes, you should contact your college’s financial aid office to determine which application they accept for summer sessions.
Make Sure to Have Everything You Need Before You Start Filling Your Forms
So what exactly do you need to complete your FAFSA forms?
Have the following handy before you start filling your forms:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your Alien Registration Number — if you are not a U.S. citizen but a permanent resident.
- Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable).
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable).
- An FSA ID to sign electronically.
If you are a dependent student, you will have to get this information from your parents.
If you determine that you are a dependent student, you will need to seek out your parents’ help with the information above.
If you find yourself in a situation where your parent has to file your FAFSA on your behalf in order to provide this information, they can do so without an FSA ID.
They will have to follow the steps below:
- Start a FAFSA form on FAFSA.com.
- Your parent can then start filling out the FAFSA form by providing their name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Alternatively, you can start the form by entering your FSA ID.
- Whoever starts the form will be prompted to create a save key. Make a note of the save key as you will need this later.
- After your parent puts in all the information they are supposed to put in, they can save the information they put into the file and close out of it.
- Once they are done with their part, you can use the save key to enter into the same form and continue inputting information.
Correcting Your FAFSA Form
What happens if you make a mistake on your FAFSA form? Is it the end?
Of course not.
We want to avoid making any mistakes the first time. However, if you do make a mistake, fixing it will not be a problem. You will simply have to log into your FAFSA account online and click on Make FAFSA Corrections to remove any errors.
These five tips will help you conquer those almighty FAFSA forms.
If you have filed the FAFSA in the past, are there any other must-know tips we didn’t cover in this post? Let us know in the comments below.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.