The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed by students applying for state, federal, and institutional financial aid. Even if you don't think your child will qualify for need-based financial aid, he should still complete the FAFSA to be eligible for student loans. The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov as soon as possible after January 1st of the year for which your child is requesting aid. Here are the steps you and your child should take when preparing to submit the FAFSA.
Find out the FAFSA priority deadline for your child's college. Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it is crucial to submit the FAFSA in a timely manner. Many priority deadlines are as early as February. Although priority deadlines do not affect a student's eligibility for federal student loans, if your child doesn't file early, he may miss out on possible aid opportunities such as money awarded directly from the institution.
Request a Personal Identification Number (PIN). If your child is considered a dependent student and he files the FAFSA online, both you and your child will need to register for a PIN number at www.pin.ed.gov. (The parent's PIN is different from the student's PIN.) PIN numbers are required to sign the online FAFSA application. You can use the same PIN number for your electronic signature each year and for multiple children.
File your taxes. Since the FAFSA requires current tax information, try to file your taxes early. If you can't, your child can still submit the FAFSA using estimated taxes. Just keep in mind that once taxes are filed, he must update his FAFSA using the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval process.
Complete FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. If your child is filing the FAFSA online, be sure to complete the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet in order to organize information. This worksheet allows you to read and complete the questions before entering information online. The questions are listed in the same order as they appear on the website.
Attend a financial aid workshop. Be sure to attend a financial aid workshop at your child's school or in your community to learn more about filling out the FAFSA. Financial aid professionals will be able to answer any questions you have regarding the application.
Gather required forms. The following information is needed when filling out the FAFSA:
Student's driver's license and Social Security card
Income tax returns or as close an estimate as possible
W-2 forms and other records of money earned
Current bank statements
Records and documentation of other untaxed income received such as welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran's benefits, AFDC, or military or clergy allowances
Records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
Current mortgage information
Business or farm records (if applicable)
Most of the above-mentioned steps can be completed before January 1st, which is the earliest your child can submit the FAFSA for that upcoming year. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your child's FAFSA will be filed in a timely manner so he can get as much aid as possible for your family's financial situation.