Image from Negative Space.

Image from Negative Space.

Once you get to college, it doesn’t mean you are done applying for financial aid. You must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each school year if you want to continue receiving grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans that require it. Filing the FAFSA for the second time can go much quicker than the first time you filed. The 2016-2017 application opened on January 1st, and it is better to complete the application as early as you can in order to receive the most aid possible. Remember that you are able to able to amend the application later in the year once you and/or your parents file their taxes.

Here are steps to take to make filing the FAFSA a quicker and simple process:

Make a FSA ID.

Last May, the Federal Student Aid PIN was replaced with the FSA ID. Instead of entering your Federal Student Aid PIN number in order to submit your information, you will be required to submit your FSA ID which is a username and a password. If you are a dependent student, you must have a parent create a FSA ID, too. When you are creating your FSA ID, you will have the option to link your information connected to your Federal Student Aid PIN to your new FSA ID account. It can take a few days for your information to be verified once you register for the FSA ID, so you may want to do it a couple days before you plan to file your FAFSA.

Review 2015’s Student Aid Report.

To assist you with filling out the FAFSA, you can download your Student Aid Report (SAR) from last year. It is a document with all of the financial information you provided on your last FAFSA. After you log into your account, click on the 2015-2016 and towards the bottom of your webpage there should be an option to view or print your SAR as a PDF. Having a copy of the prior information you provided is especially helpful if your financial resources haven’t changed much in the past year.

Gather Your Own Financial Information.

Did you work last summer? Do you have a work-study position during the school year? Any forms your employer or college is required to distribute to you should arrive by the end of January, but remember you do not need to wait until then to fill out the FAFSA. If you’re still waiting for your W-2 forms to arrive from your employer and want to provide an estimate, check for the Year-To-Date income amount on your last 2015 paycheck. You should also look for a 1098-T form distributed from your college regarding the amount of tuition you paid and any financial aid you received. Some colleges will mail the form to you, so it may end up at your home address instead of your school mailbox. Other colleges only provided the information in their online portal.

Request Parent Information.

The deadline to file taxes this year is April 18th, so your parent(s) may not be in a rush to file until later in the spring. They may also be waiting for their W-2 forms and other financial documents to arrive. Your parental financial situation may be more complex if they have resources such as owning a business or investments in addition to, or instead of, income earned from work. If you can’t convince them to file ASAP, ask if there are any big changes in their information since the last FAFSA filing so you can make a reasonable estimate. If you were born before January 1st, 1993, are married, or have a child you may be considered an independent student now, and therefore you would not be required to provide financial information for your parent(s).

Decide Which School(s) to List.

Students who are remaining at the same college just need to list their current college again and select their housing plans. If you know for sure you’re going to attend another school during the 2016-2017 school year, then you can list only your new college to receive your information. On the other hand, if you haven’t been accepted to the school you hope to transfer to, it makes sense to list your current college also. If you aren’t able to transfer to another college, your college will still receive your FAFSA information on time and if you do end up transferring your new school also have received your information. The school you transfer to may also have additional forms to fill out or different information you are required to provide to receive their financial aid. Different colleges and states have priority and/or final deadlines to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA, so make sure you find the deadline that applies to your situation.

Next Steps:

Once you and/or your parents have filed taxes, you can use the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import the information from your tax forms. This can also act as a form of verification for your college so you do not have to submit paper copies of your taxes later. Some schools have their own institutional forms to fill out for financial aid, so check with your financial aid office. Returning students often receive their financial aid award on a different date than the new students, so keep track of when to expect your 2016-2017 financial aid offer. After you’ve filled your FAFSA, it’s time to start working on scholarship applications to supplement your federal aid!

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the author

Cara Claflin is a senior who attends a public school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Even though she plans to stay in Minnesota, attending college in a state that doesn’t have snowstorms in May is starting to sound appealing. She hopes to double major in journalism and marketing. Cara loves helping high school students make the most of all the resources available to them. At school, she is an editor for her school’s newspaper and takes part in a leadership group. When she has some free time, she enjoys dancing, listening to music, reading, and watching music and dance competition reality shows.

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