Maximizing college financial aid for 2021-22 will be crucial for many families in light of financial pressures due to COVID, the economy, and natural disasters. Filing a FAFSA is the first step for families getting their high school seniors ready for college. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available beginning October 1. Two keys to this process are meeting deadlines and minimizing mistakes. With that in mind, here is what you will need to know when completing the 2021-22 FAFSA:
• FSA ID: Both the student and parent of a dependent student need an FSA ID. This is a user name and password that will also serve as your legal signature for submitting the FAFSA. Be careful to enter your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social Security card.
• Be Prepared: Make sure your 2019 Federal Income Tax return has been filed. Have your identification and financial documentation at hand so you won’t have to search for information.
• Start the Form: You can complete the FAFSA online or through the myStudentAid app for iOS and Android. Printed forms are available at 800-433-3243 if you do not have computer access. If you are a CFAA client, we will schedule a “submit” meeting where we will help file your student’s FAFSA via a Zoom meeting.
• Dependency: The FAFSA form asks questions that determine whether your student is dependent for federal student aid purposes. Dependent students must report their personal and parents’ financial information on their FAFSA form. Additional steps may be needed to determine who counts as your parent, what to do if you do not live with your parents, and what to do if you do not have access to the financial information for your parents.
• Financial Information: The 2021–22 FAFSA form asks for information from your 2019 federal income tax return. You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically populate this information. If you are using this tool, it will conveniently answer the question about whether you filed a Schedule 1. If your family’s financial situation has changed dramatically since you filed your 2019 taxes, complete the FAFSA questions as required and submit the FAFSA form. Then contact the school you plan to attend and discuss your situation with the financial aid office.
• List Colleges: You must list at least one school to receive your information. The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive. Some states may require you to list schools in a particular order.
• Sign The FAFSA: You must sign the FAFSA for it to be submitted. Your FSA ID can serve as your signature. To ensure the application functions properly, make sure the pop-up blocker in your browser allows pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov.
• Getting Help: If you need help, there are tips throughout the form for more information or you can visit the FAFSA Help page for FAQs. You can also contact FSA directly or the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend.
Information from your federal financial aid application may be transferred directly to your state application, depending on the state in which you live. You will receive a confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted successfully, and will then be sent a Student Aid Report which will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). For the 2021-22 FAFSA, the income threshold for an automatic-zero EFC was increased to $27,000. Each college will provide a separate financial aid offer based on the information provided.
In some cases, your college might also ask you to complete a CSS Profile. I will provide more information on that in my next blog. Also be sure to check each college’s website to determine if they have any supplemental financial aid forms of their own.
For the latest financial aid information, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and tune in for my weekly Twitter chat at #CollegeCash every Thursday at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. The CFAA Scholarship Program helps you locate, organize and apply to personalized scholarship opportunities.