In a few weeks, the 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available. If this will be your first time completing the FAFSA, you’ll need to register for a PIN before you can begin the process. Keep in mind that your parent(s) will need a PIN, too, if you are a dependent student. Once you have that out of the way, you can start gathering the documentation you will need to complete the FAFSA, as this will make the process much easier. In general, you will need the following items.
- Social Security number(s)
- Driver’s license (if any)
- 2013 W-2 forms or records of other income earned
- 2013 Federal Income Tax Return(s)
- 2013 untaxed income records
- Bank statements
- Investment records (stocks, bonds, etc.)
- Alien registration or permanent resident card (non- U.S. citizens)
If you’re a dependent student, you’ll need to gather these items for both you and your parents. You probably won’t have your 2013 taxes completed at this time, but once you receive your W-2 forms, file your taxes as soon as possible. It’s better to submit them electronically, as this will reduce the amount of time needed to transfer the information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the FAFSA. Electronic filing typically takes about two weeks for information to be uploaded to the FAFSA, but paper filing can take eight weeks or longer. You can estimate your taxes and amend it later, but this may delay the verification process at your college financial aid office, as well.
Don’t forget that you’ll also need to register for the Selective Service, if you’re a male student (18 years or older). You can register online prior to starting the FAFSA or while completing the form. Here are a few other things to consider when completing the FAFSA.
- To avoid delays, always place a ‘zero’ in a section instead of leaving it blank.
- Check the spelling of your name, and verify that you have placed the correct date of birth and social security number(s) on your form. Mistakes can significantly delay your FAFSA.
- Be sure that all required parties sign the form (digital or paper)
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not filing the FAFSA at all. You should never assume that you are ineligible for federal aid. Even if you feel you (or your parents) make too much money, this form is necessary to access grants and scholarships from your college. There are even some private scholarship programs that now require you to submit the FAFSA. To ensure you don’t leave any money on the table, take the time to complete it every year. If you need help, attend your school’s financial aid night or check out a local College Goal Sunday event. A few hours of your time could be worth thousands in free money for college.
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