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Filling Out the FAFSA

Filling Out the FAFSA

You’ve seen the headlines: college is more expensive than ever. But, if higher education is in your future, don’t be discouraged. Financial help is available. Getting it starts with filling out the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Aside from your college application themselves, it might be the most important thing that you fill out this year.

The FAFSA determines your “expected family contribution” or how much you and your parents are expected to pay towards your college expenses each year. Taking into account your family’s income and net assets, the FAFSA determines how much you can pay— and helps you qualify for loans and grants to cover the rest.

Here are some tips for filling out the FAFSA:

Check the deadlines. The FAFSA is one application that goes to multiple sources of aid, like the federal government, your state government, and your college of choice. Each of these groups sets their own FAFSA deadline. Check federal and states deadlines at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm and contact your school for theirs.

Make sure to get a PIN. Before you start filling out the FAFSA, you need to get a Federal Student Aid PIN. This personal identification number serves as your electronic signature and is used each year that you apply for aid. You can get a get a Federal Student Aid PIN at http://www.pin.ed.gov/.

Gather your documents. The FAFSA is a detailed application that asks a lot of very specific questions. Be ready to answer them by getting organized. Gather copies of your and your parents’:

  • Social Security numbers
  • Most recent tax returns
  • W-2s, bank statements
  • Investment records
  • Remember to fully complete the application. Once you’ve got everything that you need, you’re ready to fill out the FAFSA. The application usually takes 1-2 hours to complete, so give yourself plenty of time. Making corrections after you submit the FAFSA can be a slow process, so make sure that you do it right the first time. Fill out the application as completely and accurately as possible and double check it before you hit submit.

    And, that’s it! Once you finish your application, it goes on its merry way, sent off to those who can help you with your college expenses.

    You should expect to receive a Student Aid Report, which provides you with the outcome of your application, within 4-6 weeks.