What is the FAFSA? What do I need to know and why do I need to fill it out? Many students beginning the college enrollment process do not know the answer to these questions. Yet, the FAFSA is the most important steps in receiving any type of financial aid for college. Not only is this one of the main TN Promise deadlines students must meet in order to remain eligible for the scholarship but every student must complete this application to receive any state or federal funding for college. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is definitely one of the more challenging hurdles students must jump throughout the college admissions process. Luckily there are plans in place to make this application much easier but until that time comes let’s make sure you are prepared to fill out what is now a rather complicated application.
This year there was a large change in the way that students and parents “sign” the FAFSA. This year students and parents have to create an FSA ID to sign the FAFSA. The FSA ID is in place to make the signature process of the FAFSA a little bit easier. One important thing to note about the FSA ID is it can take several days for your ID to be processed and approved to use on the FAFSA. You can go ahead and create this ID NOW! In fact, we highly encourage students do so. Something else I cannot stress enough, make sure you WRITE YOUR FSA ID DOWN. Do the capital letters get the point across? You will have to use the username and password you create more than once so be sure to write this information down or put it in your phone so you do not forget it. Having to contact FAFSA and have this information reset can be a huge pain (if we are being honest) so try to avoid having to do that. FAFSA is an application filled out by almost every college student in the nation, as you can imagine they are quite busy and getting on the phone with someone can take an incredibly long time. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your FAFSA is NOT COMPLETE until it has been signed by the student and parent with the FSA IDs they have created.
Once you have created an FSA ID it is now time to complete the FAFSA. Please remember, the earliest students can complete the FAFSA for the 2016-2017 school year is January 1, 2016. If a student or parent fills that application out one day before January 1, 2016 you will be completing the FAFSA for the wrong school year. As you sit down to begin this application make sure you have the following items with you:
- Correct Social Security Number
- Parent(s) or Guardian(s) correct Social Security Number
- Drivers license (if you have one)
- Parent’s federal tax information, including W-2 information for you and your parents
- Information on investments and assets
If you have these things with you at the time you are completing the application process I promise it will help you to complete it much quicker. However, quicker does not mean 15 minutes. Make sure you set aside at least one hour to complete your FAFSA, the application can take a while. For TN Promise students make sure you begin working on this application prior to the February 15th deadline. You do not want to be the student who sits down at 10pm on February 14th and your internet stops working…. You get where I am going with that story right?
In the case that you do run into questions or need to adjust anything on your FAFSA, contact the helpline: 1-800-557-7394 or receive live help on the website www.fafsa.gov.
Hopefully this information will help you as you are filling out your application, or give you a better idea as to what the FAFSA is and how to complete it. Now, go apply for some financial aid!