Have you filed your 2017-18 FAFSA yet? Did you even know that it is already available? That’s right – you don’t have to wait until January any more to file your FAFSA. If you will be starting or continuing college in the fall of 2017, you need to get this critical task taken care of as soon as possible, even if you already completed a FAFSA in January of 2016. Don’t make any assumptions about whether or not you qualify for financial aid. Plan ahead and get started with these key completion steps for the 2017-18 FAFSA:
• Get Your FSA IDs: Remember that you will need to complete a separate application for each student who will be in college next year. Each student and the parents of dependent students need to have an FSA ID. This allows you to access all FSA information and sign the FAFSA electronically. Parents and new FAFSA filers can use their FSA ID right away, but it might take a few days for previous filers because of an account verification process. Keep your ID secure and try not to share it so you won’t get confused.
• Check Your Deadlines: Know when your school and state require FAFSA completion, but it is still a good idea to complete the FAFSA as early as possible.
• Just Do It: Gather your documents, sit down, and decide that you are going to spend the time filling out your FAFSA. Visit https://fafsa.gov/, click on “Start a New FAFSA,” take a deep breath, and begin. Remember that the form is being completed from the student’s point of view.
• Read, Follow Directions, Look for Help: Take the time to read what each section is about. FSA does try to be as clear as possible with step-by-step explanations, and offers lots of help along the way. Make sure you enter any personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. Don’t use any nicknames or shortened spellings.
• Dependency: If you are a dependent student, your parents will also have to provide information. The FAFSA asks a series of questions to determine your dependency.
• Parents: You cannot just choose who to list as your parent, or say that you live with grandparents, to try and paint a more favorable picture. Follow the instructions to determine which parent’s income you must report.
Provide information as requested, list schools to receive your data, sign and submit. If you’re still not sure whether you need to file a FAFSA this year, schedule a free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
Get more information on completing the FAFSA in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro. It provides more FAFSA insights, reviews the updated financial aid timeline, educates students on using debt wisely, and talks about good money habits parents can instill in children as they are growing up. Order it now, and start getting your student ready to apply to college and finish the FAFSA.