When it comes to planning to finance a college education, one of the most important things you can do is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA has become a mainstay of the education system, since it is the standard form that is used to determine what kind of education grants you are eligible for, as well as helping you obtain federal student loans (subsidized and unsubsidized), and helping you qualify for federal work study programs.
As you get ready to pay for college, don't forget to head over to the FAFSA web site to fill out this important application. (You can also get a paper version, but the online version is easier to fill out and submit.)
Information Needed to Fill Out a FAFSA
You will be asked specific information about your status at school, your finances, and your parents' finances if you are still a dependent. It is important that you have the information asked for on the FAFSA form. The information you will need as you fill out the FAFSA includes:
- Residence address
- State of residence
- Social Security number
- Driver's license number
- Marital status
- Degree information (you aren't eligible for certain types of aid if you are working on a graduate degree)
- Dependency status
- Information about your parents, including financial and tax information
- Information about your finances, including income and tax information, as well as other assets you have.
You will also need identification numbers for the school in question. If you are already attending college, you just need the identification number of that university. If you are applying to go to school, you should include the identification numbers for all of your choices. The FAFSA web site has a tool that can help you look up the needed ID numbers.
You can simplify the process a little bit by filling out the FAFSA on the Web worksheet. This worksheet will help you organize the information you will need when filling out your FAFSA.
When to Fill Out Your FAFSA
You fill out the FAFSA every year that you want student aid. If you fill out your FAFSA online, you will be issued a Department of Education PIN. This will save some of your information year to year in order to make filling out your new FAFSA a little easier. You do have to fill out a new one each year, though, since changes to your parents' and to your financial situations can affect the type and amount of aid you are likely to receive.
The FAFSA for the next school year is made available in January. However, if you haven't completed your tax return, you might have to wait until that is done, since your aid is determined by information found on the previous year's tax return. For instance, your 2011 – 2012 FAFSA needs to be filled out with information from your 2010 tax return, which was filed in the first part of 2011.
The FAFSA for the school year that includes Fall 2012, Spring 2013 and Summer 2013 will be available in January 2012. It is important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible, since some aid is on a first come, first served basis.